MUSCAT, Nov 20 – Oman are on track to advance to the next round as only one point separates them from Asian champions Qatar after the fifth round of matches in Group E of the 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Joint Qualification.
Both Oman and Qatar registered crucial and identical 1-0 wins against their opponents in the matches on Tuesday.
Oman edged India at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, while Qatar got the better of Afghanistan in the latter’s home game.
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. India’s loss meant that they lost the chance to qualify for the next round of the World Cup Qualification.
In Muscat, Mohsin al Ghassani made amends for his penalty miss in the opening minutes of the match to net the all-important goal in the 33rd minute and earn the full points for the Sultanate team. With the win, Oman have increased their chances to advance into the next round of the World Cup Qualifiers and got closer to secure a berth at the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The victory against India was also doubly sweet as it came when Oman is celebrating the 49th National Day. Omani fans raised banners related to the National Day at the stadium to celebrate the occasion. More than 24,200 Omani fans attended the match as per the statistics announced by the officials after the game.
Oman, coached by Erwin Koeman, performed well in the first half which recorded the only goal of the match. However, the second-half belonged to India who exerted good pressure near the Omani penalty box. But the visitors were unable to break through and score an equaliser as they lacked good finish. Experienced custodian Ali al Habsi also rose to the occasion on couple of attempts to deny India.
Koeman said the first-half performance was the best Oman had in their qualifiers.
“Mohsin missed the penalty but he came back strong to score. I am proud of him. He is young player and have a bright future. The team created series of chances and finally we were able to make a fantastic goal,” the Dutchman added.
Koeman said Oman gave chances for many young players in the squad.
“The second half was controlled by India. They were a quality side and they pushed hard for an equaliser.”
“We gave chances to our young players who are in the age group of 18-19 years. They are the future of Oman team. Moreover, they have to learn a lot and gain the right exposure. I believe India’s match and specially the second half was a lesson for the national team,” the coach said.
The Oman head coach said there is only a one-point difference with leaders Qatar and Oman are capable to overcome it.
Koeman praised Mohammed al Ghafri’s performance during the India match. ”Mohammed al Ghafri was in China with the military team. He is a young player and he performed very well against Qatar too. He is top player but he has to do better and work very hard to grow,” he said.
The Dutchman affirmed that the national team players delivered the best 45 minutes during the first half of the match. “If we play the second half with two strikers, then we may lose the match as there were some mistakes in the midfield,” the coach said.
Indian coach Igor Stimac said the players did everything in the match but they faced difficulty to score. “We tried to push hard and increase the pressure on Oman’s defence specially in the second half. We succeeded on that but without getting the reward as we lacked finishing. Oman are a better team and our team was fighting in both the halves,” the Croatian said.
The group qualifiers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will resume in March next year.
With the World Cup Qualifiers taking a break, Oman have turned attention on the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup which will take place in Qatar from November 26 to December 8. Oman are placed in Group B alongside Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain while hosts Qatar will play against Iraq, UAE and Yemen in Group B. Commenting on the Gulf Cup, Koeman said: “I knew the importance of the Gulf Cup to the Omanis. However, it will happen for first time to me that to play two matches within one day rest in between. Anyhow, we have to adapt to that and deliver top performance during the tournament.”