MUSCAT, Dec 17 – A good start in the opening clash against the Unite Arab Emirates will be crucial for Omani prospects in the 23rd edition of the Arabian Gulf Cup to be held in Kuwait, according to Oman national football team manager Pim Verbeek. The Gulf Cup will be held from December 22 to January 5, 2018. “The first game of every tournament is very critical because the result of this game defines the rest of the competition, the Dutchman told Oman Daily Observer.
The Red Warriors will start their campaign against the UAE on December 22 at 22:00. Then they will meet hosts Kuwait on December 25, while the last game of the Group A will be against Saudi Arabia on December 28. All fixtures will be played at Jaber International Stadium.
The 61-year-old Verbeek will announce his final 23 list on December 19. The list now includes 25 players.
“It’s already clear to me, but we still have a plenty of time to make the final decision,” Verbeek said.
Verbeek will miss veteran player Ali al Habsi due to his commitment with Saudi’s Al Hilal club and some of the U-23 national team players too.
“The importance is not about what you don’t have but it’s about what you have, so the 23-player list we have now is the most important for me.”
The former manager of South Korea and Australia feels that he selected the best available players for the internal camp.
“At his moment, these are the best players I have got; I’m not here to think about the future, my current focus is on the Gulf Cup and especially our opening game against the UAE. They are very strong, but I told my players as a team we have to work very hard and then we can be successful and surprise our rivals.”
Verbeek said he is not keen to be known as title favourites in the media, especially after Kuwait and the UAE managers told the press that Oman is a strong team and can battle for the title.
He said: “I would like to the vice-versa scenario, so we surprise others who didn’t expect much from us.
Verbeek continued: “For me, it’s not important what the others say, but on the other hand, it’s a new experience for some of the players to go through this media pressure.”
“We cannot judge about the chances, it will be clear after the opening games.”
“It’s the only tournament I haven’t been to; so the only knowledge I gathered is from what I heard and read. But I’m looking forward to be in the tournament as I know that it’s a very important domestically.”
The Dutchman said every game is important for him as a manager but he knows it is highly important for the fans.
“The Gulf Cup is quite important for the Omani national team as well for the Omani fans. For me, it will help to know the tactical and technical performance of the team.”
“I don’t feel pressurised because all of us — I and the team are working and giving our best to be successful and meet the expectation of the Omani fans.” Verbeek requested the Omani fans to be realistic and stop comparing between Gulf Cup 2009 and now.
“I don’t dream anymore in football. I only look for the reality, and from a realistic point of view, my plan is to follow the same tactics and philosophy that we followed previously which is competing with the teams in our group and trying our best to reach the semifinals.”
“I also want to highlight that the whole team is working very hard to be successful and meet the expectations. Miracles can happen because in football anything is possible as we saw in the last game between Real Madrid and Al Jazeera, but we have to stop comparing between today’s Gulf Cup and 2009 when the Omani national team won the title.”
The veteran Ahmed Kanu will be the captain of the team in the competition, a reward for his consistent performance with the national team with more than 150 games. Verbeek knows the importance of Kanu though he missed the internal Muscat camp and Yemen friendly due to his commitment with his Qatari club. “Kanu will impact positively on the spirit of the team as he is the expert of this tournament. I believe in his capabilities as a leader in and out of the filed. He is in a very good shape from the last game he played in Qatar and he understands what I want from him very well,’’ Verbeek concluded.
The Oman squad:
Observer had learnt that the final 23-list for the Gulf Cup to be announced on December 19 will exclude both Mohammed al Siyabi (Al Shabab) and Mana Subait al Mukhaini (Dhofar). The final list will be as follows: Sami al Hassani (Al Mudhaibi), Said al Ruzaiqi (Dhofar), Basil al Rawahi (Dhofar), Ali Salim (Dhofar), Abdulaziz al Muqbali (Suwaiq), Fayeez al Rusheidi (Suwaiq), Yaseen al Sheyadi (Suwaiq), Mahmood al Mushaifri (Suwaiq), Khalid al Hajri ((Suwaiq), Mohammed al Musalmi (Suwaiq), Ali al Busaidi (Suwaiq), Hareb al Saadi (Suwaiq), Sulaiman al Bariqi (Saham), Mohsin Johar (Saham), Saad Suhail (Fanja), Saud al Farsi (Oman), Fahmy Said (Al Nasr), Ahmed al Rawahi (Al Nasr), Abdullah Noah (Al Nasr), Jameel al Yahmadi (Al Shabab, Mohammed Faraj (Al Nahda), Ali al Jabri (Al Nahda), Nadir Awadh (Al Shahaniya, Qatar) Ahmed Mubarak ‘Kanu’ (Al Mesaimeer, Qatar)
Jaber al Ajmi