Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Pim Verbeek warns Oman against complacency ahead of Iran clash after reaching Asian Cup last 16

Manager lauds his players for qualifying for knockout stages, but understands Iran tie will be even more challenging

Oman midfielder Ahmed Al Mahaijri, right, celebrates his goal against Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Khales Desouki / AFP
Oman midfielder Ahmed Al Mahaijri, right, celebrates his goal against Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Khales Desouki / AFP

Having achieved their first objective of reaching the Asian Cup last 16, Oman are now focusing on going as deep as they can in the knockout stages.

The Arabian Gulf nation beat Turkmenistan 3-1 in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to set up a last-16 meeting with Iran at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, also in the capital, on Sunday.

“Our first objective was to reach the knockout round, which we have achieved,” manager Pim Verbeek said.

“I can’t sit back and say we have achieved our objective and let this game go. No. This can be another opportunity and we want to make the best out of it.

“Obviously we are very happy to make it to the last 16, and we will now do everything we can to go further.”

Verbeek believes the knockout format will be different from the group games, with every team having an opportunity to create an upset or two. However, the Dutchman is aware they are up against formidable opponents.

“We are facing one of the best teams in the competition,” the Dutchman said. “Iran are returning after playing in the World Cup six months ago, but for us it’s a wonderful game to play.

“Everybody is ready for the game and obviously it’s not an easy game for us. We watched all three games of Iran in this competition and saw the quality of their players.

“But we have prepared well and we are ready to do what we can do and what we have to do.”

Verbeek has his entire squad at his disposal, including central midfielder Mohsin Johar.

“The No 10 has been in the squad but recovering from an injury,” he said. “He trained very hard yesterday and I’m waiting for the medical staff to give their reaction on that training. Hopefully, he can train with us again tonight.

“He’s another option we have. He played in the Gulf Cup in five games in a row. He’s a key player for us but the question is if he can play 90 minutes.”

Oman lost their first two games to Uzbekistan (2-1) and Japan (1-0) before beating Turkmenistan.

“To win after scoring six minutes from time, and score another in added time against Turkmenistan was a fantastic moment for all of us,” Verbeek added.

“After that, immediately the players were thinking about whom we are playing next. I wasn’t with the team at that time and I don’t know what they did. I was enjoying a good refreshing cup of tea.

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Read more:

Lowdown: Who plays who and where in last 16 of the Asian Cup

Al Ain player becomes hero as Japan secure top spot in Group F

Why Son Heung-min is worth the wait for football fans in the UAE

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Oman manager Pim Verbeek concedes his players have to work on their concentration. Khaled Desouki / AFP
Oman manager Pim Verbeek concedes his players have to work on their concentration. Khaled Desouki / AFP

“The game against Iran is a big challenge. My players are not so experienced in the big leagues and international football as a lot of other teams in the Asian Cup.

“We still have to learn why we are losing concentration, like what happened against Uzbekistan [when they conceded a goal five minutes from time]. You lose concentration and then lose organisation for five or 10 seconds, and that’s the big difference between my players and some others.

“Against Iran, we need to go out there and play good football. Their defenders are strong and well organised and it won’t be that easy.

“But the moment we get a chance to score we must to that against teams like Iran. I’m sure my players will be focused and concentrated.”

Iran topped the Group D with victories over Yemen (5-0) and Vietnam (2-0) before being held by Iraq to a scoreless draw.

Updated: January 20, 2019 07:30 AM

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