Defending champions Oman are ready for the “best team in our group” in their last but crucial Group B match against Saudi Arabia.
Oman resisted Kuwait’s challenge in their second match on Saturday to win 2-1 and now sit at the top of the group with four points from two matches, with Erwin Koeman’s side having drawn their opening match against Bahrain.
“I think Saudis are the best team in our group but we are prepared very well for the match,” Koeman said yesterday.
“They are technical very good. They play fast, have the physical strength in the back and in the midfield, but I am confident. I have watched several videos of the Saudi team, and after studying in depth we have our plan ready.”
Three-time winners Saudi lost their opener against Kuwait 1-3 as most of their players were not available for the match and on Saturday defeated Bahrain 2-0 for their first win. Kuwait, now have three points and Bahrain are at the bottom with one point. All the four teams are still in contention to reach the semi-finals.
Koeman, who joined Oman as coach in February this year, has overseen an impressive run of just one defeat in his last 10 outings with Al-Ahmar (The Reds). Central to Oman’s success has been a resolute backline, with the Gulf champions only conceding six goals under Koeman’s tenure.
Oman is aiming to become the first side since Saudi Arabia to win back-to-back Gulf Cup titles.
Koeman is impressed with his team’s show against Kuwait but the second half is a matter of concern for him.
“We have played very well, especially in the first half and we created opportunities. We could have scored three goals at least, but in the second half we had difficulties,” the Dutchman said.
“We need to show the same spirit like yesterday’s game and we have to do better in the second half. What we need to do if we have the ball is we have to keep the ball little a bit longer with short passes, otherwise you will kill yourself as your energy level will drop down. I like passing-the-ball game because it’s the best.”
He feels that the fitness of the players is very crucial for the game against an experienced Saudi side.
“A lot depends on the fitness of the players when you have to play such crucial games without much recovery time. I have to look at the readiness of our players while selecting the best line-up for the Saudis, who have more experience of playing in big games like this. We have some players who play with army teams and they are used to play several matches in several days. So stamina wise they are very good. And we also need players from the last game also for proper combination,” he said. “We have only one day to play and there is no special preparation for this game.”
Talking about fans’ support in the stadium, he said, “They were amazing during the first game against Bahrain and yesterday against Kuwait, they were a big help for us. And we have support from Oman also. I hope they will be tomorrow again at the stadium to support us.”
Oman striker Saeed al-Ruzaiqi, who scored two goals against the Saudi Arabia in the last edition of the Gulf Cup in Kuwait, is also confident that his side will play a good game and qualify for the semi-finals.
“It will be a tough game for sure, but we need to play a positive game. I have confidence in my team and we are ready to give our hundred percent,” al-Ruzaiqi said.
Omani forward Abdulaziz al-Muqbali, who scored two goals against Kuwait, is confident of his side’s win against Saudi Arabia.
“We have a strong team. We played a very good first half against Kuwait and hope to do it against Saudi to qualify for the semi-finals,” said 30-year-old al-Muqbali, who has four Gulf Cup goals to his credit and also scored two goals against Kuwait in Riyadh in the 2014 edition.
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