MUSCAT: It was a little late in the night in Oman when the final whistle at the Al Minaa Olympic Stadium in Basra, Iraq, was blown by the UAE referee Adel Al Naqbi, signalling the victory of Oman over Bahrain in the semi-final of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup on Monday.
Far away from a packed Al Minaa Olympic Stadium, the end of the match triggered massive celebrations in the Sultanate as unmindful of the late hour, hundreds of cars started honking in capital Muscat to celebrate the Red Warriors’ victory and the march into the final.
Fans turned up in good numbers at the Shatti Al Qurum service road and all eyes are now on Thursday evening when the talented bunch of national team footballers take on hosts Iraq in the summit clash at the Basra International Stadium. The match kicks off at 8pm, Oman time.
This will be Oman’s fifth appearance in the final of the Gulf Cup and in the previous four occasions, Oman have managed to win twice. The Red Warriors will now target their third ever title while Iraq will eye for their fourth crown.
The last time Oman played in the final was in the 23rd edition in Kuwait when they edged the UAE in a penalty shootout on January 5, 2018. Hopes are high among Oman fans as they believe that the young team has the potential to achieve big things.
Oman’s success in the Gulf Cup came late in the history of the tournament, which began in 1970. The first time Oman reached the final was in the 17th edition in Qatar in 2004. The runner-up finish was followed by another second-placed silver medal in the next edition in 2007.
It was January 17, 2009, when Oman’s football history scripted a golden chapter under Frenchman Claude Le Roy, as the Red Warriors clinched the title for the first time in front of thousands of fans at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat.
The next title was in 2017-18 when under Late Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, the team lifted the trophy. For Iraq, who have won the title thrice and reached the final on other two occasions, it will be their first appearance in the final since 2013. They were champions in 1979, 1984 and 1988 while the other time they reached the final was in 1976.
On Monday, Oman moved a step closer to their third title as the victory came through a moment of magic late in the match. Striker Jameel al Yahmadi unleashed a stinging long-ranger in the 83rd minute of the match to beat the outstretched hands of Bahrain goalkeeper and captain Sayed Jafar. Yahmadi’s effort was the icing on the cake for Oman as the goal is arguably one of the best the ongoing Arabian Gulf Cup has witnessed.