Oman deserve their spot, says Verbeek
Abu Dhabi: Take nothing away from Oman for they, head coach Pim Verbeek says, fully deserve their spot in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16.
Oman defeated Turkmenistan 3-1 on Thursday, with Muhsen Al Ghassani and Mohammed Al Musallami scoring late goals after the Central Asian side had equalised through Altymyrat Annadurdyyev following Ahmed Al Mahaijri's opener in the 20th minute.
The three points meant Oman squeezed into the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed finishers, having fallen 2-1 and 1-0 to Uzbekistan and Japan respectively in their earlier Group F matches.
That, said, Verbeek, is the main reason why Oman deserve their spot in the Round of 16, their first in four appearances in the Finals.
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"We were in a very tough group with Japan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It was not easy at all and we are very, very proud," said Verbeek, who guided Oman to the 2017 Gulf Cup.
In fact, Oman came into the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in a rich vein of form as before falling to a 5-0 defeat to Australia - a match which Verbeek said he tried out players - they had enjoyed an unbeaten 2018.
"We had a good 2018 and we expected to do well in the AFC Asian Cup. We were unlucky to lose to Uzbekistan as we conceded a late goal while we held our own against Japan, who are a very, very good side."
Oman will play three-time champions Islamic Republic of Iran in their last-16 tie on Sunday, a prospect Verbeek wasn't too worried about.
Speaking before the match-up was confirmed, Verbeek said: "It doesn't matter who we play in the Round of 16. Our dream was to go into the next round and we have achieved that. Now it is all or nothing matches and anything is possible."
The 62-year-old Dutchman, however, knows what he has to work on ahead of the match against Iran.
"We conceded to Turkmenistan because we lost a little bit of concentration. It was the same against Uzbekistan and this is something that my players must overcome.
"We were on top but once Turkmenistan equalised, it became difficult for us as they started to defend with nine players behind the ball.
"That forced us to use Plan B, which was about pumping the ball into their box and thankfully, our strategy worked."
The win saw joy not just in the Omani ranks but also in the stands and Verbeek said he was glad their fans went home happy.
"That is what football is about. It is about making people happy and I am so glad that we have made the Omani people happy by qualifying for the knockout stage for the first time."
Verbeek said he would allow his players to savour the moment only for a little while before starting preparations for the Iran match.
"The players were emotional and if I were 10 years younger, I would have run to the fans too. However, we still have much ahead of us and we will prepare accordingly."
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