Oman national team manager Pim Verbeek has achieved his primary objective of reaching the semifinals in the 23rd Arabian Gulf Cup in Kuwait. But now the dreams have got wings and fans are hoping for the coveted title. The Red Warriors defeated Saudi Arabia 2-0 in the last match of Group A on Thursday to lead the group with six points, and secured a place in the top four.
It wasn’t an easy game for Verbeek’s men, especially in the first half. But the second half was totally dominated by Oman, thanks to Said al Ruzaiqi (Al Shalhoob) who came off the bench to score a brace in the 57th and 77th minutes.
Al Shalhoob was lucky as Abdulaziz al Muqbali got injured by the end of the first half, so he utilised the opportunity on his debut to give Oman a golden gift.
Dutchman Pim Verbeek was very satisfied by his team’s performance in the second half. “We played a fantastic second half. I’m proud of my team and they deserve this victory,” Verbeek said.
“Saudi Arabia were very organised in the match. Even in the last 15 minutes of the first half, they were the better side. We were lucky that it ended 0-0.”
“Abdulaziz had a problem in his knee, so he couldn’t continue in the second half.”
“Al Shalhoob Said al Ruzaiqi showed a very high physical fitness level in the 35 minutes he played in the match.”
“We kind of lost control in the first half because they had a very strong midfielders, but after the substitution we were elevated to a higher level.”
The 61-year-old expressed his happiness with the squad he has, saying that: “I’m happy that I have many options to choose from when it comes to the style of play.”
“Abdulaziz and Khalid al Hajri don’t have the same qualities, and it’s my choice to start any game after reading and analysing our encounter.
“In the past nine months, my players developed themselves in creating spaces in the middle through the games we played in the AFC qualifiers.”
Finally, Verbeek talked about his next opponent which are one of either Iraq, Bahrain or Qatar.
He said: “All the three teams are very well organised teams. And they have high abilities in scoring, so I’m looking forward to meet our opponents in the semifinal.”
Jaber al Ajmi