Muscat: Oman’s winning streak that saw them march into the semi-finals of the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup was finally halted on Saturday as they went down fighting to Iran 6-3 in the Thai city of Pattaya on Saturday.
In a hard-fought semi-final match, Iran overcame stiff resistance from the 2015 Asian champions before prevailing to set up a title clash with defending champions Japan on Sunday.
Japan were dominant in their 5-1 win over the UAE in the other semi-final match.
Earlier, Oman along with three other semi-finalists, qualified as the top-four teams for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, which will be held in the UAE in November.
It will be Oman’s fifth appearance in the Beach Soccer World Cup and the third in a row, having participated in 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2021 editions.
On Saturday, it was a highly charged encounter between Talib Hilal-coached Oman and Iran, coached by Ali Naderi Hosseinabadi at Jomtien Beach Arena with Oman threatening in the first minute through Yahya Al Muraiki while Iran’s Ali Mirshekari couldn’t keep his shot on target.
Iran, however, found a way through in the fifth minute with Mohammasali Mokhtari slotting home from the penalty spot, sending Oman keeper Younis Al Owaisi the wrong way.
To Iran’s surprise Oman didn’t flinch as they struck back within seconds through Sami Al Balushi, who collected Khalid Al Araimi’s deflected shot before rifling home the ball for the equaliser.
Iran restored their lead in the eighth minute through a wonderful move which started from Amir Akbari’s overhead kick feeding Mirshekari, whose back heel bounced off the bar for Mohammad Moradi to nod home from close range.
Oman replied two minutes later with Khalid Al Araimi scoring off a free-kick leaving the teams level going into the first break.
After soaking up the pressure for much of the second half, Iran turned on the power and regained the lead through Mokhtari’s 19th minute effort before Abbas Rezaei and Mirshekari both netted within three minutes for a 5-2 lead.
Oman, after being denied twice by the bar, reduced the deficit through Moslem Mesigar’s own goal in the 23rd minute.
Iran showed their class in the 33rd minute with Amir Akbari collecting the ball from Javad Khosravi before striking the ball on the volley, leaving Younis Al Owaisi rooted.
Earlier, Japan won to remain on course for a record-extending fourth title while Iran will be eyeing their third crown on Sunday.
For Oman, the qualification into the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was the ‘first goal’ according to coach Talib Hilal and they achieved it in style.
Oman hammered China 11-0 in the quarter-finals after they had finished unbeaten to top Group D.
Talib Hilal’s men had begun their campaign at the Asian Cup with a 7-0 win over Kyrgyzstan on March 17. They then trounced Kuwait 5-1 two days later before concluding their group engagements with a 5-1 over Palestine.