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Oman look to book semis past Saudi

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Muscat, Jan 11

Oman will take on Saudi Arabia in their concluding Group A match in the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup in Iraq city of Basra on Thursday. The match will start at 7 pm (Oman Time) at Al Mina'a Stadium.

In the same group, hosts Iraq will meet Yemen at the same time in Basra International Stadium.

Coach Branko Ivankovic’s heroes will enter the tight clash with an aim of securing a spot in the semis after they finished their opener against Iraq in a goalless draw and ended the following match with a 3-2 tough win over Yemen.

Finishing today’s assignment against Saudi Arabia in a draw and winning result will progress Oman team to the semifinals while a defeat will advance the opponent to the semis.

Oman head coach Branko Ivankovic said the Saudi match will be a tough encounter. “It will be a strong game but the team is in good shape to face favourites Saudi Arabia. Most of the Saudi’s players are competing in their professional domestic league which is ranked as one of the top Gulf leagues. I am assured that today’s assignment will be a special clash between both teams,” he said.

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The Croatian coach affirmed during the pre-match press conference that Oman team will deliver their top show in the game to clinch the winning points.

“Moving to the next round and taking the action in the semifinal is the team’s target in today’s match. There are few injuries in the team including Amjad al Harthy and Mahmood Mabrook but alternative solutions are available. I have 23 players in the squad and all of them are in perfect readiness to take part in the tournament. Sometimes, I used to do some changes in the player’s positions to play in two different zones according to the playing style,” he ended.

Oman met Saudi Arabia in 22 matches where 16 games ended for the latter on a winning note, two draws and suffered four defeats. Despite the historic records for the opponent, Omani players will aim to beat Saudi in Thursday’s clash and begin a new record of registering more triumphs against them.

Oman’s goalkeeper Ibrahim al Mukhaini, who saved the penalty of Yemen in the last game, said the team is in full readiness for Saudi’s game.

“The team missed the focus in the beginning period of the Yemen match and that’s why we received two goals. Later, we managed to register a strong comeback and I was lucky to save the penalty in the dying minutes,” he said.

Red Warriors ended their warm up sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the deciding fixture. The head coach implemented different technical and tactical approaches during the training sessions and tested different players to cover-up the absence of Amjad al Harthy and Mahmood Mabrook. Coach Branko may opt for a few changes in the starting line-up of the encounter against Saudi Arabia.

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