By Anuroop Athiparambath — MUSCAT: Jan. 19 – Oman coach Muhanna Said al Adawi successfully tested the team’s bench strength against France in their final league round match in the CISM World Cup football championship. Missing top players like Abdulaziz al Maqbali, Oman showed good character to come back after conceding an early goal against France in the Group A match at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Friday night. “We thought of giving chances to other players than the main eleven. It was important to give all the players a fair chance before the knockout stages,” Muhanna said. Muhanna’s ploy worked as Oman overcame the challenge of France 3-2 to enter the quarterfinals as group toppers with 7 points.
The match started off with Oman attacking from the kickoff. Saud al Farsi’s firm shot was saved by French goalkeeper Yannick Germannaud from the free kick in the opening minute itself. The French goalkeeper had a busy night with another save next after Al Farsi curled in Oman’s first corner towards the goal. France tried to make some moves in between and Kevin Yannick Dumontant exposed the lapse in Oman defence by firing home the opening goal after receiving a fine pass from Tanguy Rodolphe Gardan. Stunned by the strike, Oman attacked with more vigour.
And the hosts answered with a diving header by Said Obaid al Abdulsalam in the 21st minute to make it 1-1. Said Obaid latched on to the ball for the header after a firm shot by Alabd Salih al Noufali was punched into the box by the French goalkeeper. The success came after Abdulsalam’s couple of attempts fell short. Oman pressed again and six minutes later, Saud Khamees al Farsi put the hosts ahead after dribbling into the penalty box and placing the ball into the right hand corner of the net. Oman’s third goal’s credit goes to goalkeeper Fayez Essa al Rashdi too as his timely long pass landed perfectly in front of Saud al Farsi, who beautifully hit the ball past the hapless French goalkeeper in the 35th minute.
Oman strengthened their defence after the 3-1 goal and the same story continued in the second half also. Many moves organised by Oman either lacked finishing or ended up with a fine save by the French goalkeeper. France, who needed to win the match to stay in the competition, lacked sharpness upfront and could not break through the stern Oman defence. During the final phase, France substituted their goal scorer Dumontant with AbdelKader Neant Mihoubi and in the 85th minute Oman brought in Jameel Darwish al Yahmadi in place of Qasim Said. France reduced the deficit by another goal when Jean Philippe Neant Sabo fired a long ranger into the Oman goal in the 88th minute.
In the remaining minutes, France could not make much of a move past the agile Oman defence. Coach Muhanna said France were better opponents than they thought. “France played very well. We didn’t expect them to give us a tough fight.” The Oman coach said initially Oman left the defence open and that caused the first goal by France. “We were letting French forwards space in our penalty box at the start. But we could plug the holes immediately after the first goal.” “Oman players have then on played upto the task and the boys deserve credit for keeping a cool head. Overall our game was well organised,” Muhanna said. He said Oman are ready to face any side in the quarterfinal.
It is likely that Mali (4 points) will qualify as the second team from Group B to set up a clash with Oman. Qatar are leading Group B with 6 points. Both teams have one more match left in group round. French coach Fabrice Jean Abriel said Oman were a strong side and French team put up a good show. “We could score two goals against Oman and that shows our capability. Our goalkeeper deserves special praise as he had atleast made eight good saves.” On their CISM campaign, the French coach said it was mixed one. “We had many moments of brilliance, but lacked consistency. We need to work more to set up a good side for next edition.” France finished last in Group A with only one point.