Oman go into the Gulf Cup football final as favourites
January 3, 2018 | 9:30 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan/[email protected]
Ecstatic: The victorious Omani players after their semi-final clash on Tuesday. -Ismail Al Farsi

Muscat: Oman’s performance on the football field so far may well see the team head into the final of the Arab Gulf Cup of Nations as favourites.

That’s the opinion of former Morocco international and Leicester City goalkeeper Chuck Martini, who currently heads the Muscat Football Academy in the Sultanate.

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“They are probably full of confidence, although for the first time Oman will go into this game as favourites,” said Martini. “Many of the neutrals have now swayed towards Oman because they have beaten Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to get into the final, but Oman could be psychologically affected by this because of the pressure on them to win this game.”

Also read: More flights to Kuwait for Gulf Cup final

Oman will face neighbours UAE in the final of the Gulf Cup, having already lost to them in their opening Group A game of the tournament. Since then, though, both sides have had contrasting fortunes: Oman beat both favourites Saudi Arabia (2-0) and hosts Kuwait (1-0), before defeating Bahrain 1-0 in the semis.

“They do have a weakness at the full-back positions and I believe Oman can expose them with the pace they have out wide, because I saw them get exposed two or three times in yesterday’s game against Iraq, although I did see them have a lot more possession in the game. It’s just that the shots on goal were lacking quality,” he added.

“Goalkeeper Khalid Issa for the Emirates has proven to be one of the best in the tournament so far, because he seems very confident and agile. He is small, but he is a larger than life character, leads by example, did well in yesterday’s penalty shoot-out and was very solid, because I remember the two or three great saves he pulled off against Oman.”

A former goalkeeper himself, Martini is keen to see who will win the battle of the goalkeepers in the final.

“Our own Faiz Al Rushaidi has been good, as well, and I remember saying before the tournament that we have another Ali Al Habsi in him,” noted Martini, who was a former goalkeeping academy coach at the AFC Wimbledon.

“I would say that the Emirates have a very good goal scorer in Ali Mabkhout, but you must remember that Oman has defended very well throughout the tournament. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that my heart feels Oman will win, but my mind thinks it’ll be the UAE.

“It should be a very very tough game, and I would like to see more of an attacking threat from Oman. We’ve been too cagey, but it has gotten us through to the final,” he added. “I think Pim Verbeek will probably use the same tactics with Ahmed Al Maqbali or Said Salim up front, and it’ll be a tactical affair between two very good coaches. This is Dutch versus Italian football, and it’ll be a good game for the neutrals to watch. I think all of Oman will at this point take a 1-0 win.”

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