Muscat: With the all-important AFC Asian Cup two and a half months away, Oman national football team faces a challenge and it is a very simple and uncomplicated one: how do we score goals?!. In their latest friendly against a lower ranked Philippines (ranked 114th, compared to Oman’s 85) in Doha, Oman could only muster a 1-1 draw, thanks to a Raed Ibrahim Saleh goal which was undone by an own goal from Khalid al Hajri.
goals drying up
Now, until Raed Ibrahim’s goal against Philippines, the ‘Red Warriors’ had netted only a single goal in their last five international matches, prior to the match against the Filipinos.
Oman’s last goal in those five matches came in the Asian Cup Qualification match against Palestine in Muscat in March where Khalid al Hajri was the star with his 88th minute winner.
Calculating the last five matches begins with the Arabian Gulf Cup semifinal against Bahrain where Oman scraped through after an own goal from Mahdi Abd al Jabar in the 29th minute.
al hajri needs to step up
In the Gulf Cup final against a tough UAE outfit, Oman were stretched and struggled to enforce a result in regulation time with the score 0-0. The heroics of Fayez al Rushaidi which is now well documented ensured Oman secured their historic second Arabian Gulf Cup crown.
The two friendlies after the Asian Cup Qualifier against Palestine were goalless draws against Lebanon and Jordan in September.
Khalid al Hajri has been the fulcrum of Oman’s attack machine for a while now and the reliance on the striker is immense. Although Oman has a talented midfield that ensures a regular supply to the forward line, it is the finishing that has been a real concern.
One goal in five matches prior to the Philippines game will certainly make coach Pim Verbeek to think about his strategies and tactics heading to the Asian Cup.
finishing, the key
Irrespective of how the formations develop and who occupies the role of the frontman, Oman will have to find a way to the back of the net.
Khalid al Hajri has been off colour since the goal against Palestine in March and the own goal against Philippines would have added to his frustrations.
It is crucial that Oman’s go-to striker comes to the party when the Asian Cup kicks off in January next year.
With Oman set to face the likes of Japan in the group stages in the Asian Cup, the team will have to really pull up their socks and penetrate opposition defences.
Coach Verbeek and the players have their task cut out and the job will begin with the friendly against Ecuador today. Oman will also have opportunities to address the goalscoring issue with two internal camps scheduled in November and December.
road ahead for oman
The ‘Red Warriors’ will have their first internal camp next month from November 12-20. This camp will also include a friendly match against Kyrgyzstan on November 18th.
The national team will then have a second internal camp from December 7-22 which will be the final training period at home before they depart for the UAE.
Once the Oman team is in the UAE for the prestigious continental event, they will have a camp from December 23- January 3. The camp will include friendly matches against Australia on December 30th and Thailand on January 2nd. Oman’s first Asian Cup match is against Uzbekistan on January 9th in Sharjah.