Oman look to overcome Afghan challenge

An upbeat Oman team will be looking to register a win against a resilient Afghanistan outfit in their Fifa 2022 World Cup and Asian Cup 2023 Joint Qualification match at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Thursday. The match will kick off at 7 pm.
Oman national football team’s head coach Erwin Koeman exuded optimism ahead of the crucial Group E second round match today.

“It is a home game after the win against India in India. The goal is to go to the next round. So we will play to win. If we can maintain our level then I’m very positive about result. When the whistle is blown by the referee and the match starts, players have to perform and we know what to do,’’ he added.
With Oman’s iconic star goalkeeper Ali al Habsi set to make his comeback into the national team, Koeman acknowledged the importance of having him back.
“He is here because we would like to have quality in the team. I saw him for the first time on the pitch when he joined the team. Everyone knows Ali and his history. Goalkeeper is different from an outfield player and its a specialist position. Ali’s comeback will be advantageous for us,’’ Koeman added.
Oman are in the second position in Group E behind Asian champions Qatar with three points from one match. Qatar have four points from two games played while Afghanistan are in the third position with three points from two matches. India are in the fourth position with one point from two games while Bangladesh occupy the basement.
When asked about Afghanistan’s strategy to play for a draw, Koeman was forthright about his views.
“They (Afghanistan) are here to get points. It’s all about us and we have to concentrate on our game. We are here to win,’’ he added.

Koeman also saw the positives from a hard-fought away victory against India in Guwahati.
“I would say the big positives were the two goals we scored against India. They fetched us three crucial points. An away win is always very important. Players are in better shape after the India game and have recovered well. We have to focus on our gameplans,’’ the coach stated.
Koeman said he has healthy respect for the Afghanistan team after seeing their performances.
“I respect the Afghanistan team. I saw two games of theirs against Qatar and Bangladesh. They would have learnt a lot from their match against Qatar,’’ Koeman felt.
Afghanistan coach Anoush Dastgir emphasised the importance of defence to challenge Oman.
“We have played against Oman before on a couple of occasions. We lost one of the games 5-0 and it was a humbling experience for us. So our main focus for the game will be our defence and we are looking to get a drawn game,’’ Dastgir said.
The Afghan coach also lamented the fact that the visitors do not have the same professional set up and facilities like Oman or other countries.
“We have good, talented and skillful players but we lack the footballing infrastructure that is so crucial to nurture players. We are realistic about our plans and we feel we can finish third behind Qatar and Oman. We made some mistakes in the game against Qatar and paid the price. Overall, it’s been a tough learning experience for us and we will see how it goes,’’ coach Dastgir added.