Ambitious Oman Eye Iran Upset in Asian Cup

Soccer Football - AFC Asian Cup - Oman v Japan - Group F - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - January 13, 2019 Oman coach Pim Verbeek gestures REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

By Osama Khairy

ABU DHABI, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Coach Pim Verbeek says Oman are by no means satisfied with reaching the last 16 of the Asian Cup for the first time and will be going all out to forge another historic breakthrough when they take on Iran on Sunday.

The Omanis will be rank outsiders when they face three-times champions Iran at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi but the always upbeat Dutchman said there was no sense of mission accomplished in his squad.

“I agree that our first target was always to be in the final 16 but there was always a second target and that was to get into the next round,” Verbeek told reporters on Saturday.

“We do not sit in the hotel and say that we have achieved everything we wanted to achieve and let it go. This could be an historic game if we reach the last eight.

“This is not enough. We will do everything we can to get to the next round of this Asian Cup.”

Oman lost to Uzbekistan and Japan in the group stage but beat Turkmenistan 3-1 in their final match to qualify for their knockout stage clash with Iran, the 29th best team in the world according to the FIFA rankings.

Asked about the gulf between Iran‘s standing and 82nd ranked Oman, Verbeek was dismissive.

“I have no idea about the FIFA rankings,” he scoffed.

“I think in big tournaments, this doesn’t matter. This is the start of the knockout stage. Everybody will be excited to play one of the best teams in Asia at the moment.

“These are fantastic games to play. We know that it will not be easy, we know the strength of the Iran team and the Iranian players. It is up to the team to play good football and, if necessary, fight to the last second.

“These are the games you want to play.”

[aesop_image img=”” panorama=”off” credit=”REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani” align=”center” lightbox=”off” caption=”Soccer Football – AFC Asian Cup – Iran v Iraq – Group D – Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – January 16, 2019 Iraq’s Ahmed Ibrahim in action ” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Oman struggled to convert their chances in their group games and Verbeek said it was vital that they were clinical at one end and focused at the other on Sunday.

“My team are not as experienced in big leagues or competitions as other teams at the Asian Cup so we still have to learn that if you lose concentration for five seconds, that’s a goal,” he added.

“We will get chances, I’m not worried about that. Of course we have to play our best football (but) when we get those chances, we have to take them.

“We’ll try to score as many goals as possible, but let’s start with one.”

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris)