Muscat: Buoyed by the back-to-back wins in international friendly games against a strong Syria side, Oman football team will depart for the Iraqi city of Basra on Monday high on confidence in a bid to vie for their third Gulf Cup title.
Coached by Croatian Branko Ivankovic, Oman will be heading for the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup, which will be held in Basra from January 6-19.
Coach Ivankovic has preferred to keep the core of the team that has been with him for the past year as he announced on Sunday the 23-member squad.
The team concluded a week-long camp in Dubai, UAE, where they played two friendly matches against Syria. Oman won both the matches with the first match ended in 2-1 in their favour while the second match, Oman won 1-0 on Friday.
The camp concluded on Sunday and Ivankovic released five players from the camp with Jameel Al Yahmadi joining the squad only on Saturday.
Experienced goalkeeper Faiz Al Rusheidi and defender Mohammed Al Musalami are among the senior squad members with Ivankovic relying on his young forces, led by Salah Al Yahyaei and Al Monther Al Alawi upfront.
Earlier in November, the national team earned plaudits for a strong showing against four-time World Cup champions Germany in a friendly match held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.
Oman Football Association (OFA) vice-chairman Mohsin Al Masroori will be the leader of the Omani delegation at the Gulf Cup.
Two-time champions Oman will begin their campaign against hosts Iraq in a Group A match on January 6 soon after the opening ceremony. Oman won their maiden Gulf Cup title in Muscat during the 19th edition hosted in January 2009 under Frenchman Claude Le Roy.
The second title came during the 23rd edition hosted by Kuwait in 2017. Dutchman Pim Verbeek’s Red Warriors won against the UAE in the final. Verbeek passed away in 2019.
The Group B include Asian champions and World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar, defending champions Bahrain, UAE and 10-time champions Kuwait.
Besides Iraq and Oman, the other teams in the group are Yemen and fancied Saudi Arabia.
Oman take on Yemen on January 9 and play their last group-stage match against Saudi Arabia on January 12.
The official mascot for the 25th edition of the Gulf Cup is Sindbad. Iraq will host the tournament for the second time in its history after they had hosted the fifth edition of the tournament in 1979 in Baghdad.
The 24th edition was held in Qatar in 2019 and was initially scheduled to be held in Iraq but was shifted to Doha due to security reasons.
The Gulf Cup was initially set to take place in December, 2022 but was pushed back due to the Qatar World Cup.
Two stadiums will host the Gulf Cup matches in Basra. Basra International Stadium will be the main venue with a capacity of 65,000 spectators and 30,000 fans can be seated in the newly built Al-Minaa Olympic Stadium.
A third stadium of 10,000 seating will be used for team training and friendly games.
The first Arabian Gulf Cup was held in Bahrain in 1970 and is organised every two years. Kuwait is the most successful team in the tournament’s history with ten titles, while Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iraq won the event three times each. Oman and the UAE came on top in two editions each.
Oman squad: Ahmed al Rawahi, Faiz al Rusheidi, Mohammed al Musalami, Juma al Habsi, Mahmood al Mushaifri, Harib al Saadi, Salah al Yahyaei, Ahmed al Khumaisi, Amjad al Harthy, Ahmed al Adawi, Issam al Subhi, Ahmed al Matrooshi, Ibrahim al Mukhaini, Ahmed al Kaabi, Moataz Saleh, Jameel al Yahmadi, Musaab al Maamari, Fahmi Bait Doorbeen, Khalid al Breiki, Zahr al Akhbari, Omar al Malki, Arshad al Alawi and Al Monther al Alawi. Coach: Branko Ivankovic.