Won’t fear Japan: Verbeek
Despite losing 1-2 in its opening match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 to Uzbekistan, Oman's performance came in for praise from all quarters and coach Pim Verbeek is looking ahead to another good game from his wards when they take on highly-fancied Japan in a Group F match at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Sunday.
The match kicks off at 5.30pm, Oman time.
Verbeek said that his men are ready to face one of Asia's biggest teams with 'respect but no fear'. "We are looking forward to playing probably one of the best teams in Asia.
“They are a big team, experienced, played in the World Cup six months ago and now have brought in new talent. We are excited to be playing Japan,” said the Dutchman.
"We won't fear Japan as we need the points after being so unlucky against Uzbekistan," said Verbeek.
He added, “The defeat to Uzbekistan is the reason why Oman will face Japan with confidence. We played very well against Uzbekistan but we were unlucky to concede so late. The players, however, have been told of what went wrong and we will face Japan with confidence."
Verbeek said Japan may be superior in terms of experience and technical ability but Oman has done its homework.
"We must capitalise on Japan's weaknesses, if there is any. The players have watched the match against Turkmenistan and they will go into the match fully aware of what we need to do for the three points."
Japan scraped past Turkmenistan 3-2 in its opening match and is top of the group. A win on Sunday against Oman will ensure its berth in the next round while the Red Warriors need to win to keep their hopes alive.
Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu has challenged his players to produce the same intensity they showed in the second half of their game against Turkmenistan on Sunday.
Four-time Asian Cup champions Japan raised their game after trailing 0-1 against Turkmenistan at the break but some tweaking by Moriyasu saw a different side in the second half as the Samurai Blue eventually won 3-2.
"We faced some difficulty against Turkmenistan and tomorrow, it will be the same against Oman. We know that every game will be difficult but the key is to adapt," he said.
"We will have a gameplan and I would like it if we dominate but if we can't, we must be able to change our approach. It is important that we play with the intention of taking the game to Oman.
"The players must be focused and, more importantly, able to change our style if there is a need."
"Oman has very quick counter attacks but can also hold the ball well too. We have to be mindful of that as they can hit us if we let our guard down.
"However, we have prepared well and I hope the players express themselves on the pitch. Ideally, I would like to seal a place in the next stage tomorrow but we must be patient, not pressure ourselves," added Moriyasu.
Iran, Iraq advance into knockouts
Abu Dhabi, UAE - Iran sank Vietnam and Iraq beat Yemen as the neighbours and arch-rivals powered into the Asian Cup round-of-16 on Saturday ahead of their highly anticipated group decider next week.
Sardar Azmoun struck both goals in Iran's 2-0 win in Abu Dhabi, while teenager Mohanad Ali's early solo strike kick-started Iraq's 3-0 victory in Sharjah.
Iran and Iraq will meet in Dubai on Wednesday to decide who tops Group D in a repeat of their combustible quarterfinal of 2015, which Iraq won on penalties.
Iran, looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football's most coveted prize, could have scored four or five but for some poor finishing.
In Sharjah, 18 year old Ali scored a wonderful solo goal to put Iraq 1-0 up after 11 minutes. Bashar Resan doubled Iraq's lead midway through the first half while Alaa Abbas struck in injury time.
And in a late Group E match on Saturday, Saudi Arabia beat Lebanon 2-0 for its second successsive win to ensure its progress into the last-16 phase.