Muscat: Oman made history when they qualified for the last 16 in the AFC Asian Cup after beating Turkmenistan at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Thursday.
The national football team will meet Iran in Abu Dhabi today for a place in the quarterfinals.
After Thursday’s victory, Omani football fans are upbeat about the team’s chances in the pre-quarters clash.
Their progression came courtesy of a dramatic last-second goal against Turkmenistan with Mohammed Al Mussalami scoring in stoppage time to send the Red Warriors through.
Hasan Ali, an Omani from Muscat, was present at the match in Abu Dhabi. He told the Times of Oman, “The atmosphere was brilliant. Some 8,000 fans cheered for the team but it felt like there were 80,000 supporters. Inside, we are all still celebrating. The team deserved the win but I think we were not lucky enough in terms of goals.” He added, “The players, as well as the fans gave 200 per cent throughout the match. Thankfully, we managed to score twice only minutes before the final whistle.”
Abdulmajeed watched the match with his family and called it “one of the best experiences as an Omani football fan”.
“It was incredible. It definitely ranks up there with winning the last Gulf Cup as one of my favourite experiences supporting Oman. It was so dramatic, I wished we had sealed qualification earlier but that is part of football’s beauty,” he said, adding, “I hope this is not where the journey ends and that we can continue into the quarterfinals.”
The Omanis were not the only ones who enjoyed the win. They were joined by expats supporting the Red Warriors as well.
Kumar, an educator in the North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, was one of them. The Indian expatriate said, “I think it’s natural that you support the country you live in, where you have enjoyed such good times as my family and I have in Oman.” He added, “With India no longer playing, it was an easy choice to support Oman. I will continue backing them through thick and thin. I am hoping they will go all the way into the finals.”
Oman will face Iran tonight in round of 16 at 9PM GST. It is for the first time in history that Red Warriors have participated in the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup. They will face Asia’s highest ranked team according to FIFA. However, with such strong support at home and in the UAE, Oman will be confident of making history again.