Muscat: Oman’s football team qualifying for next year’s FIFA World Cup is a dream that Head Coach Branko Ivankovic will do everything to turn into a reality.
Although he knows it will not be easy for the Reds to qualify for Qatar 2022, Ivankovic is confident that the players will give it their all to secure a place in next year’s tournament, thanks in part to their attitude in their opening two games of the final round of World Cup qualifiers.
“When I agreed to coach the national football team, I had a dream and a goal to reach the World Cup, and I know for sure that it will not be easy,” he added. “I have a preparation plan for the team, and we will work to make sure we achieve the objectives to which we aspire.
Oman are one of 12 teams split into two groups in the third round of the Asian stage of World Cup qualifying. The Reds are in Group B, where they stunned Japan 1-0 in Tokyo in their opening qualifier, before succumbing to Saudi Arabia by the same score line in Muscat.
The two teams that finish atop both groups will automatically qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The other nations in Group B include Australia and Vietnam – Oman’s next opponents – as well as China.
“We have a young group of players who are motivated and well-prepared before our matches,” said Ivankovic, in a press conference on Monday. “The confidence they have showed in their previous two games did not come from nowhere, after all.”
During his press conference, Ivankovic also said it was important his team scored more goals when presented with good scoring opportunities. The squad announced for the upcoming games – the first against Australia on 7 October – contains six strikers. But the Croatian says the difficulty of scoring goals is a problem not unique to the Omanis alone.
“We will work to prepare them well,” he said, referring to his strike force. “I trust all the strikers, and they are qualified enough to represent the national team.”
A training camp in Muscat has been scheduled from 10 to 20 September, following which the team will fly to the Qatari capital Doha for more training.
Although Oman are expected to fly to Australia for their qualifier, there is a likelihood that the team could be denied entry, with the country’s borders closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should they be unable to travel, the match will instead be played in Qatar.
“We are ready for all the circumstances and possibilities in which we expect to find ourselves, whether our next game is in Australia or in Qatar,” he said.
Fahad bin Abdullah Al Raisi, the executive director of the Oman Footballl Association, said he had requested clearance from the Australians for the Oman team to travel.
“We have sent all the official documents to obtain entry visas for Australia,” he said. “Should it be decided that the match will be held in Australia, we will be ready for that outcome. The picture will become clearer in the coming days.”
Oman’s 26 man squad ahead of the upcoming qualifiers is as follows: Abdulaziz Al Maqbali, Khaled Al Buraiki, Ahmed Al Rawahi, Ali Al Busaidi, Ahmed Al Kaabi, Salah Al Yahyai, Abdulaziz Al Ghailani, Al Mundhir Al Alawi, Mohsin Al Khalidi, Harib Al Saadi, Mohsen Al Ghassani, Abdullah bait Abdulghafur, Mohammed Al Ghafri, Arshad Al Alawi, Yazid Al Maashani, Khaled Al Hajri, Essam Al Subhi, Omar Al Fazari, Fahmy bait Durbin, Amjad Al Harthy, Juma Al Habsi, Saud Al Habsi, Ahmed Al Khamisi, Ibrahim Al Rajhi, Hussain Al Shahri, and Ibrahim Al Mukhaini.