Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex - Bowshar, Muscat.
Time: 18:30 (Oman timing)
Match: Oman x Bahrain
I think by now our National team needs no introduction. It is now considered as one of the best in Asia. Our national team booked it's place in Asia's best since 2004 in the Asian Federations Cup which was held in China. Even though in that tournament we did not move further than the group stage due to referee favourism (what a coincidence? He was Bahraini). The road to success was continued in 2005 at Qatar when we were beaten only once in the group stage and topped the group. Then comes the Semi finals and we came with a wonderful come back against Bahrain and reached the finals against hosts Qatar. But it appears that the rule of thumb in the Gulf Cup is that the host has to win. Same scenario happened in Abu Dhabi last year. But let's not complain, that is football. Let me just add that in my opinion our squad was at it's peak in Doha back in 2005. That is my personal opinion and many will disagree. Then came the 2007 Asian Federations Cup last summer. We actually held Australia, a team that reached the last 16 stage in the world cup in Germany back in 2006 and was knocked out by world champions Italy who had a very hard time to knock them out (comes from a die-hard Azzurri fan). Somehow, we could not advance to the second stage of the Asian Federations Cup, how couldn't we snatch that? I still don't know. It was quite shocking.
Here is the chance, we have to snatch it as this generation of players may never repeat itself. This is our golden generation but now we are suffering a problem, the same problem the best football national team is suffering as well, Brazil. As you can see, I guess 90% of our players are professionals outside Oman, yes it is great for them and we are all happy for them but here comes the problem, the club they play for is what feeds them and their families, so to continue that they have to be careful and try their best not to get injured. They might even snub the national team for the club they play for and that has happened in Brazil. The thing is, when all our players still played for Oman they all played from their hearts, they were all patriots. Now I want to ask you, do you see this patriotism in them after they all moved to Qatar and Bahrain? The only patriots I see in the pitch are: Ali Al-Habsi, Hussein Mudhafar and Ahmed Hadid who I guess all are professionals in other countries. Let us just hope that patriotism is back today on the pitch against Bahrain, months later against Japan and Thailand.
We might feel quite insecure about the national team since many changes have been made in the spine of the team and the thinking mind of the team such as the coach. But let's hope for the best. The question is, does this new coach have something new to offer for our national team?
The Bahraini national team is one of the newcomers in Asian football. A team that was filled with surprises, they have preformed excellently in China's 2004 Asian Federations Cup and made it to the 4th position. even in Gulf Cup 17 and Gulf Cup 18 where they were knocked out by our national team on both occasions in the semi-finals. We all know that Bahrain was the closest Arabian team (after Saudi Arabia that is) to qualify to the World Cup 2006 in Germany as they reached the last stage of qualification but lost against Trinidad & Tobago.
Unlike us, Bahrain have more experience in the World Cup Qualifications as they have reached the final stage of qualifications. Let alone that they haven't changed anything in their team's spine, their coach hasn't been changed. I guess as Omani's we all know him, Milan Maccalla. Milan Maccalla has coached us for 5 years, he knows every single strength and weakness for sure. That would be an important factor.
Julio Cesar Ribas, Uruguayan. This is his first match with the Omani national team (I'm not counting friendly matches). This is his first experience with national teams as he always coached club teams. This is his chance to shine. The coach sure is pumped up as he came to coach a national team like Oman. If he manages to take them to South Africa, then for sure oil-barons Saudi Arabia or sky-scrapers U.A.E will have their millions ready to lure this manage their football teams. Sure he is aware that his rival knows every weakness and strength of his team. So will he be able to lead the students (our footballers) to beat their professor(Maccalla)?
Milan Maccalla, comes from Czech Republic. Our coach for 5 years until he got the sack. Maccalla still did not achieve the Bahraini dream. He disappointed them in 2007 Asian Cup and is looking forward to lift that heavy load off his shoulders. Again I am repeating he knows every single strength and weakness of his opponents. He knows the stadium pretty well, he knows the players pretty well and knows the fans pretty well. So will the Professor beat his students this time?
I expect a pretty intense match, a match where Bahrain would be defending mostly and rely on counter-attacks while our national team attacking and hold the ball possession with their fast passing.
Our national team should find the way to the Bahraini goal quite easily if they continued striking and giving too much pressure to the Bahraini defense. I also expect our defense tomorrow to be solid.
However, we will be suffering a major blow as one of the key-players in our national team will not be featuring in tomorrow's match due to injury. I guess he is just like Andrea Pirlo for Italy. Ahmed Hadid is the start of every strike and the first on the defense wall. Let's hope his replacement does the job today.
Other matches to keep an eye on tomorrow are:
Qatar x Australia
Iraq x China
Thailand x Japan
UAE x Kuwait
Good luck and may Oman win tomorrow. I would urge you all in Oman to go watch the match tomorrow. I just wish I was there for our national team, for Oman. If I could then I would certainly go to this match. Nothing will stop me from watching this match, it will be 14:30 here in England and I will go to my friends apartment to watch it.
May the best win.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008