How they qualified:
In the second round of AFC qualifying they finished in second place behind Iran in Group D, but they were not among the four best runners-up who qualified for the Asian Cup and progressed in the World Cup qualifying. In the third round of AFC qualifying Oman topped Group D on goal difference. They defeated Bhutan 14-0 and lost just the one game against runners-up Palestine, 2-1.
This will be Oman’s fourth appearance at the Asian Cup finals. They participated in the continental tournament in 2004, 2007 and 2015, but have never advanced to the knockout stages.
Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, who played for Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Brighton & Hove Albion and Reading in England, remains Oman’s biggest star. The 36-year old is the number one at Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia. He has not always featured prominently under coach Pim Verbeeck, but his experience of participating in all of Oman’s Asian Cup challenges will be valuable.
In 2016 Oman appointed Pim Verbeeck as coach. The Dutchman succeeded Spaniard Juan Roman Caro and he led the Omanis to silverware with victory at the 2017 Gulf Cup. The 62-year old previously coached Australia in the 2006 World Cup and South Korea in the 2007 Asian Cup.
What we can expect:
In modern times Oman have established themselves as a respectable team in their region, but they can still not compete with other Arab heavyweights like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose resources easily outstrip Oman and its semi-professional league. Under Verbeeck Oman have risen 40 places in the world rankings, up to 82nd spot. In Group F they face four-times champions Japan, Central Asian heavyweights Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Samurai Blue will be a class apart, but Verbeeck (pictured) is ambitious and to get four points playing possession-based football, which might see Oman tough as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Schedule (Group F)
Jan 9 vs Uzbekistan, Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah.
Jan 13 vs Japan, Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
Jan 17 vs Turkmenistan, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
Goalkeepers: Ahmed Al-Rawahi(Al-Nasr), Ali Al-Habsi (Al-Hilal), Faiz Al-Rushaidi (Al-Ain).
Defenders: Mohammed Al-Musalami (Dhofar), Ali Al-Busaid (Dhofar), Mahmood Al-Mushaifri (Al-Nasr), Khalid Al-Braiki (Al-Nasr), Mohammed Al-Balushi (Al-Nahda), Saad Al-Mukhaini (Al-Nassr), Mohammed Al-Rawah (Al-Wakrah).
Midfielders: Salaah Al-Yahyaei (Dhofar), Harib Al-Saadi (Dhofar), Al-Mandhar Al-Alawi (Dhofar), Mataz Saleh (Dhofar), Ali Al-Jabri (Al-Nahda), Ahmed Al-Kaabi (Al-Nahda),
Mohamed Khasib (Al-Nahda), Yaseen Al-Sheyadi (Al-Suwaiq), Mohsin Al-Khaldi (Sohar SC), Jameel Al-Yahmadi (Al-Wakrah), Ahmed Kano (Al-Mesaimeer), Raed Ibrahim Saleh (Malta Valletta FC).
Attackers: Abdullah Fawaz (Dhofar), Khalid Al-Hajri (Al-Nasr), Muhsen Al-Ghassani (Al-Suwaiq), Mohammed Al-Ghassani (Saham Club).