Oman are targeting their third title when they meet hosts Iraq in the final of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup at the Basra International Stadium on Thursday. The match will kick-off at 8 pm (Oman Time).
Oman head coach Branko Ivankovic said the Red Warriors are seeking to end the trend of losing the final against the hosts in the Gulf Cup.
“We want to end our record of losing to the hosts in the final. I am proud of the players for reaching the final. It was not easy, they are eager to play in front of full stands. Iraq are very strong especially with the home fans support. Our goal is also to win. I expect it to be a difficult match, but I trust the players. The players are ready,” Ivankovic told a pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
Defender Juma al Habsi, who missed the semifinal due to two yellow cards, will return for the final. Injured defenders Amjad al Harthy and Mahmoud Mabrouk al Mushaifri will miss the final.
“We have no absences except for the two full backs, the players are well prepared.”
Ivankovic said it will be an altogether different approach compared to the opening match of the same teams which ended in a goalless draw.
“In the first match we had a reservation, a point is better than losing, and in the end the draw was satisfactory for both teams. Tomorrow, the matter is different and we are ready for all possibilities. I hope that the match will be over in the original time, like the Bahrain match. Playing in front of a large audience represents an incentive for us and our goal is to win.”
Jameel al Yahmadi, who scored the winner against Bahrain in the semifinal, said that Iraq will have more pressure playing in front of their fans.
“It will be a keenly fought match. The Iraqi team is strong, but we are ready to achieve a positive result. We are happy to play in front of the great Iraqi audience.”
ONE STEP AWAY TO HISTORY
Iraq head coach Jesus Casas said the team is just one step away from making history.
“It was a dream to reach the final, the journey was difficult. Our opponents for the final are very strong. We had faced Oman before, and they played many finals recently,” Casas said.
“We have several surprises for the Oman team in the final. We have analysed our first match against Oman. Our players will try to reach in several ways to create danger to the Omani team.”
“Oman is a stable team with the coach for some time. I hope that we will not reach penalty kicks, and if we go to them, I hope to win.”
“We are in the final and each team has a goal, to achieve the title. I see it as a closed match, which will be decided by small details,” the Spanish coach added.
“I am satisfied with all the matches. I hope that there will be no mistakes tomorrow. Our difference is that we know the opponent well, we are clear in front of each other, we will try to correct the mistakes of the first meeting. Each match is different. I repeat our strong desire to make Iraq happy by achieving the title.”
The Iraq coach said star player Ayman Hussein, who is the tournament top-scorer with three goals, is in good form.
“Ayman Hussein is a very important player, but all responsibilities should not be placed on him. Teamwork, one player does not win, we play collectively and win. I mean everyone, not just the players, the whole system. I did not change anything in the players, we just showed them the way and the rest is their effort. Most of the technical staff were players and this represents a positive point.”
Iraq player Amjad Atwan said the players are eager to give a great performance. “The presence of the fans will be a great motivation and we hope to achieve what makes them happy.”