Over but not out for Al Sabahi’s boys

Kuala Lumpur: The AFC U-16 Championship has always been a platform for budding talents across Asia to test their skills, and Oman head coach Yaqoub al Sabahi believes his squad garnered much needed and valuable experience despite bowing out after a 2-1 defeat to Japan in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Oman recovered almost immediately through Tariq Khamis al Mashary’s header after defender Issa Khalfan al Naabi’s own goal, but eventually fell to substitute Toyama Shoji’s 81st minute strike from close range.
“Firstly, congratulations to Japan,” said Al Sabahi at the post-match press conference. “We are really sorry for our boys because they worked really hard.
“As I previously mentioned, we were up against really tough opponents.
“If you want to build a winning team, they need to play these games, play at the highest level. This is very good experience for them for the future.
“They should play very tough games, and I think this tournament is good for them to experience.”
The 47-year-old coach has years of experience working with Oman’s young players, beginning as an assistant coach in 2004, before taking the reins as head coach of the U-16 team in 2013, and Al Sabahi is sure his boys have what it takes to make the cut to the senior teams as the country continues to invest in young players.
“I’m really happy with the boys for what they have done in this tournament and we need to take them up (to the next level).
“At the age of 16, this is their first tournament. This is also good for the future of Oman football, where we will get some players from this team.
“We are really happy that we’re taking many of these players forward in the future. That is our job, this is what we need to do.
“We need to be happy about this, and not just focus on the results. The results are coming, maybe later, but we need to continue working.
“I hope, either myself or anyone else, will take care of this team because we have many, many good things from this team, and we need to continue cultivating them for the next age-group.” — AFC