By Haridev Pushparaj — MUSCAT: Oman captain Ali al Habsi stated it is very important for the ‘Red Warriors’ to start well in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign against Bhutan on Tuesday. The hosts will take on Bhutan in their Group D match at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex for a crucial three points in what could be a testing qualifying exercise with Palestine and Maldives to go. “I am very proud to come back to the Oman national team after a gap of one year. It was nice to give an opportunity to other goalkeepers,’’ skipper Al Habsi said.
“Our preparation has been fantastic over a period of eight days. Everything is going well and we are ready for action now. It is very important for us to start well and claim the three points. We are confident of playing our natural style. The most important thing is to win the game because every home game of the qualifying campaign will be very important. So, we have to show our intent in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) match,’’ he explained.
Oman will be without the services of the newly appointed Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, who will be missing what was supposed to be his first competitive match due to the untimely demise of his sister back home.
Verbeek’s deputies Muhanna al Adawi and Waleed al Saadi will be in-charge of proceedings for Oman until he returns.
Al Adawi has been assistant coach of Oman national team for a while having served in the same capacity during the tenure of former coach Paul Le Guen.
Al Adawi coached Oman to the World Cup title in the CISM Military World Cup and is on a high and hopes to continue the good work in the Asian Cup qualifiers as well.
“We have to start strong and take the points,’’ he said.
The 159th ranked Bhutan team will be really up against it when they face the 88th ranked Oman team.
But coach Torsten Spittler, who knows Oman football reasonably well having served as the Talent Development and Performance Expert with the Oman Football Association (OFA) for a period of one year, will have a few tricks up his sleeve.
“We are aware that Oman are the favourites to win the match. But we have been doing well off late and we are here to push Oman even if we give away some points. We will fight till the end of the game. The boys are doing well, what we must understand is that the Bhutanese players are not used to a big match situation like Oman. However, we want to give a great fight tomorrow,’’ Spittler added.
Spittler was also excited about coming back to Oman after having served here previously with the OFA.
“It’s great to come back to Oman. It’s a very young team that I have here and they have developed a lot over the last six months. I think this match will give me ideas as to how to take the team forward and what to plan for the future,’’ he added.
Bhutan captain Karma Tshering said having Spittler as coach would not help the visitors much on the field but it was only a psychological advantage.
“I think it will be more of a help psychologically, than on-field strategy,’’ he added.