Oman ends domestic preparatory camp with victory over Tajikistan
Oman concluded its preparations at home for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup next month on a positive note as it defeated Tajikistan 1-0 in an international friendly played at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex (SQSC) on Sunday night.
It was the second successsive win against the visiting side for Pim Verbeek’s Red Warriors, who had won the first of the two friendlies, 2-1, on Thursday. The victory on Sunday also ended Oman’s final domestic camp for the Asian Cup as it now departs for Abu Dhabi, UAE, where it will be based for the continental showpiece tournament.
Oman striker Khalid al Hajri slammed the only goal of the match on Sunday in the 58th minute but the overall display of the hosts may have left a lot to be desired for the Dutch coach.
Ahead of the friendly, Oman captan Ahmed Mubarak ‘Kanu’ was felicitated for his 160th international match by H H Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al Said, Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan. The jersey, however, had No 150 emblazoned to mark his completion of 150 matches.
Kanu has represented the national team for the past 15 years and has 20 goals to his credit with his crowning glory moment coming in January when the experienced midfielder led Oman to its second Gulf Cup win in Kuwait.
With just 20 days left before Oman meets Uzbekistan in its opener of the Asian Cup on January 7, Verbeek will announce his final squad of 23 in the next couple of days for the competition that features the best 24 Asian teams, vying for the title from January 5-February 1.
Oman is clubbed along with heavyweight Japan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in Group F with the top two teams and the four-best third-placed teams advancing to the round-of-16.
In his earlier remarks to Muscat Daily, Verbeek said that his team’s first goal is to win the opener against Uzbekistan.
“The win in opening game is crucial as it would boost our hopes of qualification to next round. We need a minimum of four points to advance and a victory against the much-experienced Uzbeks will make things easier for us,” said Verbeek.
Oman plays former champions Japan in its next game on January 13 before taking on Turkmenistan on January 17.
The team for Asian Cup along with few reserves will travel to Abu Dhabi for the final camp, starting on December 22, during which Oman will play India on December 27 and Australia on December 30.
Verbeek’s men conclude their preparations with a friendly against Thailand on January 2.