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FIFA International Friendly Rival Watch: Oman

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The Al-Ahmar are expected to be a stiff challenge for India ahead of the AFC Asian Cup next month.

Oman will act as a stern challenge for the Indian National team before the AFC Asian Cup next month, when the two teams meet in Abu Dhabi on 27th December. Placed almost 10 places above India in the FIFA rankings, Oman have enjoyed a dominant 2018 and will look to improve upon that against the Blue Tigers. The West Asian outfit are heading into the continental showpiece with a lot of momentum and will be looking to finish the year on a high. They’ll want to build their confidence by defeating India before some tough tests await them in what is going to be a difficult group stage campaign against the likes of Japan and Uzbekistan.

About the Team

Oman will definitely be a hard nut to crack for India, as they’ve exponentially improved their defensive stability over the course of 2018. They won the Arabian Gulf Cup earlier this year, defeating the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the final to lift the trophy.



Oman won the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2018

In the past, Oman have played India six times, defeating the Blue Tigers on five occasions and scoring 18 goals along the way. They’ll look to prove their attacking prowess in the friendly match and test out some new things before the real action begins in January.

Previous Performances

Oman have enjoyed a prolific year so far and are undefeated in all competitions. Not only did they manage to win the Arabian Gulf Cup, but they’ve won five of the eleven matches they’ve played this year and drawn the other six.

The defensively solid unit have only conceded four goals in these eleven matches, keeping an impressive five clean-sheets. Oman have defeated the likes of Bahrain and Palestine in convicting fashion this year.

Head Coach

Dutchman Pim Verbeek has enjoyed immense success with Oman

Experienced Dutch manager Pim Verbeek has been doing a stellar job as Oman’s head coach since he took over in 2016. Verbeek has worked as the Australian national team’s head coach in the past and even guided them to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was the assistant coach to Guus Hiddink’s South Korea at the event in 2002, playing a part in them progressing to the semi-finals.

The Dutch coach has made Oman a defensively solid unit and sorted out all the defensive problems they had. He’s making them play slow-tempo, patient football which has frustrated their opponents this year. Verbeek helped Oman win the Arabian Gulf Cup after almost nine years. He’s taking a more pragmatic route with Oman and keeping them grounded, which is working in their favour.

Squad

The squad for the match against India is yet to be announced.


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Players To Watch

 

Raed Ibrahim Saleh

Raed Ibrahim Saleh has asserted himself as an experienced candidate on Oman’s right-hand side, with the wide midfielder overseeing proceedings very well under Verbeek. He's featured in many of Oman’s matches so far this year and even scored in their friendly against Phillippines in October.

Saleh has the ability to play anywhere on the right wing and many of Oman’s attacks go through him. He’s got pretty good creativity and an eye for goal, which can cause all types of problems to India.

Khalid Al-Hajri

The striker is expected to spearhead Oman’s attack at the AFC Asian Cup and has performed pretty well under Verbeek as well. Hajri scored the winner against Palestine earlier this year to help Oman qualify for next year's tournament.

The strong, well-built striker is quite perfect for Verbeek's system and can also cause problems to the Indian defence. He’s got a poacher’s finish and is an intelligent man in the final third.

What To Expect

Knowing Oman’s defensive strength, it’ll take some doing for the Blue Tigers to penetrate through their backline and break their resolve. They will not back down and take India lightly, as they’ll aim to frustrate them and come away with a vital win.

Pim Verbeek might opt for a more attacking style on the day and Oman will look to get a dominant victory going into the match against Australia. Stephen Constantine’s men will have a difficult time dealing with Oman’s solidity and need to do something emphatic to come away with a result.

Published: Wed Dec 26, 2018 06:38 PM IST

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