Oman has been pursuing the dream of making a mark at the AFC Asian Cup since their debut in the continental showpiece in 2004.
However, advancing to the second round of the tournament has been a challenge for the ‘Red Warriors’.
In 2004, the Oman team was short on experience, while it was missing courage in 2007 and was not in the best of shape in 2015.
As they gear up for their first match in the fourth appearance at the tournament, the experience of earlier lessons will help the team prepare better despite tough opponents in their group.
The Oman team’s task has been cut out with a tricky opening match against a tough Uzbekistan side today at the Sharjah Stadium.
They will then proceed to meet Asian giants Japan in the second group game on January 13 in Abu Dhabi. The final group match will be against Turkmenistan on January 17.
Taking into account the challenges that Oman will face while they compete in the tournament, former Oman Football Association (OFA) technical director Ahmed al Balushi listed out the five pillars on which will rest the hopes of Pim Verbeek’s squad going far in the tournament.
1 Avoid defeat in the opener
“Oman should avoid defeat by any means in their opening game against Uzbekistan to be a stepping stone for the next games,” former Fanja star Al Balushi said. “Playing to avoid defeat might affect the overall performance of the players which may not please thousands of fans who are eager to see their team showing their best in the tournament,” Al Balushi added.
2 Respect but without fear
Al Balushi calls on Pim Verbeek to have a 50/50 formula of respect and courage against all contenders. “Playing in the Asian Cup for the fourth time in history, it should bring us sufficient respect from the competitors. However, we should have enough belief in ourselves and dare to take on them whenever it’s needed,” Al Balushi said.
3Conservative Pim Verbeek
“The Dutch manager’s loyalty to his own guards will be fully tested in this tournament.’’ “Pim might be forced to change his preferable tactical style especially the attacking side, so he should be ready for that if any game went against his plans,” Al Balushi said.
4 Fitness is the key
“A very high spiritual performance like the one that has been showed by Jordan was enough to see them edging Australia,’’ Al Balushi said. “The key to such performance is in concentration and physical endurance. “Oman players should give 100 per cent in terms of energy work rate and concentration in all their games in order to be in a comfortable position for the next round.”
5 Faiz can make or break
“Goalkeeper Faiz’s performance will be vital in the tournament, especially in the opener against Uzbekistan, after a very troubling campaign caused by the exclusion of the captain Ali al Habsi in the final 23 players list,” Ahmed added. “Any underperformance by Faiz will only add fuel to the ongoing saga of who was the faulty party,” Al Balushi continued.