Asian Cup - Oman
The first of our profiles on the Socceroos Asian Cup group opponents - Oman
Asian Region: West Asia AFC Member Since: 1978 FIFA Member Since: 1980 Asian Cup finalists: 2004 (1st round) Coach: Gabriel Calderon (Argentina) FIFA World Ranking (June): 74
Of the three other nations in Group A, Oman is probably the least known to Australians, possibly because we have never met at international level. Playing in just their second Asian Cup finals, Oman qualified for the 2007 edition in a tight group, qualifying in 2nd position, behind UAE and just in front of Jordan.
A first round exit at the 2004 finals in China was disappointing, as they lost narrowly to Japan 1-0, drew 2-2 with powerhouse Iran and beat Thailand 2-0, finishing third in their group.
Despite not qualifying for the final stages of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, Oman-s football has steadily improved, with subsequent appearances in the final of the last two Gulf Cups, a highly regarded tournament amongst the West Asia countries. They lost both finals, the last one in January this year and as a result, manager Milan Macala was dismissed, despite going into the final as the only unbeaten team.
In qualifying for the 2007 finals, Oman started with a 1-0 loss to UAE, but regrouped to win their next four games to qualify in second.
Many of Oman-s best players play in the rising Qatar league, although No.1 keeper Ali Al Habsi is the only player to ply his trade in Europe, where he is No.2 at Bolton Wanderers in England and looks to have a bright future. He has already claimed three Gulf Cup Goalkeeper of the Tournament awards and will undoubtedly be one of Oman-s key figures during the Asia Cup finals.
In the lead up to the finals, Oman has had two credible draws with DPR Korea and Saudi Arabia with midfielder Ismail Al Ajmi and Mudbarak showing they will be formidable in attack, while defensively they are quite strong and organized. In Al Habsi, they have a goalkeeper that could prove the difference in them getting too the next phase of the competition.
Matches v Australia - Friday 8 July, 8.20pm (AEST) - Live FoxSports 2 from 8.00pm v Thailand - Thursday 12 July, 8.20pm (AEST) - Live FoxSports 2 from 8.00pm v Iraq - Monday 16 July, 10.35pm (AEST) - Delay FoxSports 2 (17 July) from 2.30am
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