Ivankovic faces World Cup qualifying challenge

MUSCAT, JAN 19 – Experienced Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic is joining Oman national team during a crucial period of World Cup 2022 qualifying. This move by the Oman Football Association (OFA) also points to the change in game style of the Red Warriors who followed the Dutch style of football under the late Pim Verbeek and recently under his successor Erwin Koeman.
But Koeman, brother of the Netherlands national team manager Ronald Koeman, got off the good books of the OFA after Oman missed a good advantage before the final group match against Saudi Arabia to miss the semifinals of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar.
The new coach, coming after a nine-month tenure of Erwin Koeman, will start work in February and has signed a two-year agreement with the OFA.
Ivankovic, who played 12 years of professional football with Croatian club Varteks Varazdin, will be put into task when Oman face Afghanistan in an away match of the 2022 Qatar World Cup and 2023 China Asian Cup double qualifiers.
Oman conclude their second round of qualifiers in Group E with a match against Bangladesh in Dhaka on June 9 before taking on Asian champions Qatar in Muscat on June 4 in a heavy-weight clash.
The ‘Red Warriors’ now have 12 points from five games while Qatar are leading the group by 13 points from the same number of matches.
The 65-year-old, who was won several awards for coaching with Croatia, China and Iran professional league, will be no stranger to the pressures of modern football.
The Croatian last coached Saudi Arabian club Al Ahli.
He joined Al Ahli on June 18, 2019, but was sacked after just five games due to poor results with the club on September 16, 2019.
Ivankovic also comes with the rich experience of guiding Iran to 2006 Fifa World Cup as he managed Team Melli between 2002 – 2006. He also led Iran to the 2004 AFC Asian Cup semifinals in China.
He joined Iran giants Persepolis in 2015 and won Iran Pro League twice in three full seasons with them.
Ivankovic was assistant to Ciro Blazevic, who led the Croatian national team to a sensational third-place finish at the 1998 Fifa World Cup in France.
In the 1999–2000 season, he coached German club Hannover 96, who were playing in the Bundesliga at the time. He briefly returned to the Croatian national team as the assistant to Mirko Jozic during the qualifications for the 2002 Fifa World Cup, before he took over the Iranian national team where he replaced Blazevic, who had managed them since 2001.
Ivankovic was appointed as the head coach of the Iranian team on January 29, 2002. Under Ivankovic, Iran’s Under-23 team won the 2002 Asian Games in Pusan.