Kuwait City, Dec 30 – The Omani fans are enthusiastic and optimistic ahead of the semifinal showdown that their national team play against Bahrain on January 2. The Red Warriors met Bahrain twice on this stage and won both of the games: 3-2 in Gulf Cup 17, and 1-0 in Gulf Cup 18. This give Pim Verbeek’s men a historical advantage to overcome Bahrain and reach the final for the fourth time after the 17th edition of the tournament. Observer spoke to some former Omani football stars about Oman’s chances in the semifinal in light of their previous Gulf Cup experience. And, all of them agreed that the Red Warriors are in great form to reach the final.
Legendary Oman striker Younis Amaan said he was not surprised by the performance of the team in the group stage.
“I wasn’t surprised by this good performance because I am aware of the the great financial and mental motives given for the players in this tournament,” Younis said.
“Our team was very lucky because they were out of all the positive expectations, so this kept them away from the pressure.
The current football coach and pundit also insisted that the Red Warriors have some advantages over the other teams.
He said: “ All the teams are almost equal. But our team has few advantages ahead of the rest. Our team is better in fitness and well organised as well. We have also one extra day to prepare.”
Former super star Younis, who gave Oman the first victory in the history of the Arabian Gulf Cups in 1988, called on the players to focus only in the game without looking to the previous head-to-head matches.
“We have only to foucs on our coming game without getting complacent about thinking of our past achievements,” Amaan said.
The 19th Gulf Cup champion star Fawzi Bashir trusted the players to overcome Bahrain but at the same time emphasised that Oman still need to improve some aspects to reach the full shape.
“I don’t want to exaggerate because the team still requires a lot of work. We had reached this level in the previous tournaments. Then later, we found out that we lack many basics and we were only driven by excitement,” veteran maestro Fawzi said.
The dynamic Omani playmaker had featured in eight Gulf Cup tournaments.
“I wasn’t surprised by the performance, because I know the Omani player when he gets the support from the OFA, clubs and fans he can break all the limits.
“The history stands with us against Bahrain, and we must respect the capabilities of this team because it will be a difficult game,” Fawzi added.
Former midfielder Talal Khalfan expressed his optimism after the great show he saw in the previous three games, which was not expected before the start of the tournament.
“We went beyond all the expectations, even the most optimistic didn’t predict that our national team will reach this far,” the former player of Kuwait’s Al Arabi Club said.
“It was a surprise for everyone, especially that I was watching the AFC qualifier closely, and the performance was unstable, but a total shift happened in this tournament.”
Talal, who had played in the domestic leagues of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and
Libya, also spoke about the talents in the Bahraini team. However, he still see Oman as the favorites.
“Bahrain team has no individual talents, they play in the spirit of one team. But, we might focus on Jamal Rashid and Ali Jaafar.”
“According to all the technical aspects I noticed, I expect the team to grab the title,” Talal Khalfan said.
Football pundit Hilal al Mukhaini commented on the great performance that Oman showed against KSA which can give them an advantage over any team in the tournament.
“We are playing in a cumulative performance, especially against Saudi we noticed the
individual performance went to a very high percentage according to all the statistics,” Hilal said.
“Bahrain team is very dynamic team with young players, and we can overcome those elements because we have both young and experts in our squad.”
Al Mukhaini saw Jamil al Yahmidy, Harib al Sadi, and Fahmi Dorbeen as the most shining talents in Omani side.
“Jamil, Harib and Fahmi — those three players amazed me,” Hilal al Mukhaini said.
The organisers have announced that the Oman and Bahrain semifinal match will kick off at the Jaber International Stadium at 17:15, and will be followed by the second semifinal between the UAE and Iraq at the same stadium at 20:30.
Jaber al Ajmi