Confident Oman face China in AFC U23 tourney
January 8, 2018 | 9:12 PM
Oman U-23 team coach Hamad Al Azzani and players celebrate with Gulf Cup winner Jameel Al Yahmadi after his arrival in Changzhou. Photo - OFA

Muscat: With the arrival of Gulf Cup winner Jameel Al Yahmadi right after the celebrations in Muscat, Oman are looking for a positive start to their campaign in the ACC Under-23 Championship when they take on hosts China on Tuesday.

Jameel Al Yahmadi was part of the Sultanate squad that lifted the Gulf Cup in Kuwait on Friday and Hamad Al Azzani-coached Oman Olympic team welcomed him into the squad with a brief party before getting back to their preparations for Group A opening match against China in Changzhou.

The match against China is scheduled to kick off at 12.00 noon Oman time.

Speaking at the match-eve press conference, coach Hamad Al Azzani said: “We are in a tough group. So it is important for us to start with a good result. Playing against China in front of their home fans is not going to be easy. But we will do our best.”

Earlier in his remarks to the, Hamad Al Azzani said he believes his players have what it takes to cope with the pressure they can expect to be under when facing host nation China.

Despite the potential difficulties his side could face, Al Azzani is nevertheless convinced that the talented squad he has assembled will hold their own, even suggesting that the home side could well be the one that is unsettled the most.

“Of course, China are playing at home and they are in front of their own fans,” he said.

“We expect lots of fans to support China in the opening match, but I hope this does not create too much pressure for us, although I do believe that it may even add to the pressure on China.

“If there is pressure on my team, then it is up to us, as the technical staff, to deal with it.”

With further group stage games to come against Qatar and Uzbekistan, Al Azzani is also more than aware of the importance of securing a good result from the game against China, a positive display that could help the West Asians secure a spot in the knockout phase for the first time.

“If the players remain confident, then we can go beyond the group stage,” he explained.

“There is no doubt that the first match is very important for us.”

Oman are also scheduled to play Qatar on January 12 and Uzbekistan on January 15. The quarterfinals will take place on January 19 and 20 and the semifinals on January 23. The final is slated for January 27.

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