Verbeek names ‘balanced’ squad for Asian Cup 2019
A balance of experience and youth is what Oman head coach Pim Verbeek has opted for as he named his final 23 for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019, which begins in the UAE on January 5.
The Dutchman, who admitted that the Red Warriors will be sorely missing the services of experienced goalkeeper Ali al Habsi due to thigh injury, will rely on the experience of Gulf Cup-winning captain and midfielder, Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu', who will remain as captain for the continental showpiece.
Kanu along with strikers Mohsin al Ghassani and Khalid al Hajri are among the senior members of the squad that also has young and promising Salah al Yahyai, Yaseen al Shiyadi and Mohsin al Ghassani.
Oman is clubbed along with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and former champions Japan, in Group F. Oman begins its campaign against Uzbekistan, coached by Hector Cuper, on January 9 at the Sharjah Stadium. It then plays Japan and Turkmenistan on January 13 and 17 respectively.
In his comments to Muscat Daily from Abu Dhabi on Wednesday after the squad was announced, Verbeek said, “It is a balanced side and of the 20 players ( excluding three goalkeepers), I have got more than one player for each positions. The only exception is the attack where I have decided to go in with three central strikers - Mohammed al Ghassani, Mohsin al Ghassani and Khalid al Hajri. With three in the forwardline, I will always have the option to go with three or two or a single attacker as the match-situation demands.
“While selecting the squad, my focus was to have options for my Plan A and Plan B. If we need to score goals, I have my option and in case we need to defend, we have the other players.”
With Oman scheduled to take on India in Abu Dhabi on Thursday in the first of the three friendlies ahead of the Asian Cup, Verbeek said, “The upcoming three friendlies are crucial to our preparations as I will be finalising 70-80 per cent of my final XI during these games. We need to see how the players work together and their match fitness.
“These three friendlies are in short time (Oman plays Australia on December 30 and Thailand on January 2). We need to be careful to avoid injuries and I need to find the right balance of the squad ahead of our opening game against Uzbekistan on January 9.”
Oman, under Verbeek, has been having a good run since it won the Gulf Cup in January. It has been unbeaten in the past eight matches.
And in the FIFA latest year-end rankings, Oman made a good climb to reach No 82 to be placed among the top-ten Asian nations with Iran at No 29 as the best in the continent.
Siblings to play
In an interesting selection, after a long time, two brothers will be playing for the national team after a long time.
In the past, there have been few instances when brothers have played for Oman together but it has not been seen in recent times.
The duo of Mohammed Khamis and Suleiman Khamis and Shukeiri twin brothers - Suleiman and Khalid - did play in the national team together while the Mubarak duo - Taqi and Nabeel - did play for Oman but did not feature in the same team.
Ghassani brothers - Mohammed and Mohsin - will be in the attack line for Oman at the Asian Cup.
Verbeek had departed for the UAE last week with 26 players and after calling up Ammar al Rusheidi for an injured Habsi, the three players dropped from the final 23 were Abdullah Fawaz, Al Mundhir al Alawi and Ahmed al Kaabi.
Oman squad: Goalkeepers: Ammar al Rusheidi, Faiz al Rusheidi, Ahmed Faraj al Rawahi; defenders: Mohammed al Mussalami, Mohammed al Rawahi, Mohammed 'Sheeba' al Balushi, Saad Suhail, Khalid al Breiki, Ali al Busaidi, Mahmood al Mushaifri; midfielders: Ali al Jabri, Raed Ibrahim Saleh, Mohsin Jawhar al Khaldi, Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu', Jameel al Yahmadi, Moataz Saleh, Harib al Saadi, Yaseen al Shiyadi, Mohammed al Hosni, Salah al Yahyai; strikers: Khalid al Hajri, Mohammed al Ghassani, Mohsin al Ghassani.