Doha: Oman and Bahrain were 0-0 at the end of the first half in their opening match of Group B at the 24th edition of the Arabian Gulf Cup 2019, which is underway in Qatar until December 8
In the same group, Saudi Arabia will take on Kuwait at the same venue. The match will begin at 9:00 pm (Oman time). The Oman players are in good shape after completion of last warm-up sessions for the match under the watchful eyes of head coach Erwin Koeman.
Oman squad included some young players including Al Mundhir al Alawi, Zaher al Aghabri, Mohsin al Ghassani and others who could positively add value to the technical performance of the team during the prestigious tournament. The national team players are aware of the importance of securing the winning points in the first match. The victory in the opening match will give a better opportunity for the team to advance into the semis and defend the title.
Coach Koeman said the players are ready for the opening game. “We played two matches recently at the joint qualification of the World Cup and Asian Cup. All the players are ready to meet the challenges that Bahrain pose,” Koeman said. The Dutchman, who took over before nine months, will be looking for a new accomplishment with the ‘Red Warriors’ after the previous success in the last edition under supervision of experienced coach Pim Verbeek.
“Our expectation is very high in this edition of the tournament especially as the team is the defending champion. A lot of pressure for the team but we are confident about the team’s strength. We are fully concentrated on the first match and our objective is to reach to the final,” the Dutchman added.
Commenting on a question of changing the squad frequently, Koeman said: “Change is required. I am expecting a lot of changes in all the teams in this edition of the tournament due to the limited break days in the second and third round of the group stage.”
The Dutchman expressed confidence on the team’s capability to retain the title. “We have top players with high skills. The fitness level of the players are in a better level with good work by the support staff,” Koeman concluded.
‘We will deliver our best’
Oman captain Ahmed Mubarek ‘Kanu’ also voiced confidence during the press meet.
“This is another important challenge for the national team. The technical preparation went into the best way since India match in the qualification under the supervision of coach Koeman. We will deliver our best to defend on the title which definitely will not be an easy assignment as all the GCC teams have prepared very well,” Al Murkyia Club player said.
Kanu said the team is on the right track. “We have registered four victories and suffered one loss in the qualification. I believe we can continue the positive trend in the Gulf Cup,” he added.
Meanwhile, Oman midfielder Mohsin Jawher said the players are not affected by the pressure of retaining the title.
“All the teams have the same aim and goal which is competing for the showpiece trophy. We will deliver our best in all the matches and the team-mates are aware of the responsibility,” Jawher said.
Bahrain set for the challenge
Bahrain’s Portuguese coach Helio Sousa said his team is set for the challenge against the defending champions. He appreciated Oman’s consistency in the last few years. “If we go back to history, Bahrain was behind the organisation of the GCC Gulf Cup. We reached to final many times and ended as runners-up for five times,” he said.
Bahrain began the technical preparation for the joint qualification and the Gulf Cup since five months. “Our technical preparation is on the right track and all the players are focused on the opening match. We will approach each match separately. The target will be grabbing three points until securing a berth in the semifinals,” Sousa said.