Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Ashok Puro­hit



It has been al­most a year since Oman’s goal­keep­ing star Ali al Habsi last played for the na­tional team. He is set to make his re­turn to the play­ing XI on Thurs­day, when Er­win Koe­man’s Red War­riors take on Bangladesh in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qual­i­fier at the Sul­tan Qa­boos Sports Com­plex (SQSC). The Group E qual­i­fier be­gins at 7pm.

Oman’s Dutch coach Koe­man will hope that Habsi and his team makes a win­ning re­turn af­ter suf­fer­ing its first de­feat of the cam­paign against hosts Qatar last month.

Asian cham­pion Qatar leads the group with ten points and its near­est chal­lenger is Oman with six points as the cam­paign reaches the mid­way mark. Afghanista­n has three while In­dia has two with Bangladesh at the bot­tom with one point.

With Qatar not in ac­tion dur­ing match­day five on Thurs­day, Koe­man’s side can nar­row the gap at the top with a victory against the vis­i­tors.

Oman, ranked 84th in the world, had be­gun its cam­paign on a pos­i­tive note de­spite a hard­fought away game in In­dia with a 2-1 re­sult to col­lect three points.

Its sec­ond qual­i­fier was an easy out­ing at home as it romped to a 3-0 tri­umph against Afghanista­n, but then came its first de­feat against hosts Qatar, which won 2-1.

Against Bangladesh, Oman will miss the ser­vices of its ex­pe­ri­enced mid­fielder Raeed Ibrahim Saleh, who got in­jured dur­ing the match against Qatar. In all like­li­hood, Koe­man may field young Zahir al Agh­bari of Seeb Club in the midfield along with Ahmed Mubarak ‘ Kanu’, in-form Al Mon­ther al Alawi and Harib al Saadi.

The call-up of striker Said al Ruza­iqi and de­fender Saad Suhail af­ter their re­cent per­for­mances may also pro­vide good options to the Dutch­man in at­tack and de­fence against Bangladesh.

With Oman tak­ing on In­dia on Tues­day (Novem­ber 19) at the same venue and lit­tle re­cov­ery time in be­tween the back-to­back games, the play­ing XI on Thurs­day may wit­ness few changes to the team that played against Qatar and Afghanista­n.

At the press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day, Koe­man said, “I am con­fi­dent we can pick up the three points at stake to­mor­row. Bangladesh had a good game against In­dia and we re­spect them. It is all about how a team per­forms on a given day and I have full trust in my boys.”

Habsi, who was also present at the press meet said, “Our aim is to qual­ify for the next round and to achieve that we have to play very well. We are ready for to­mor­row’s [Thurs­day] match.”

Bangladesh is the group’s low­est-ranked team (FIFA rank 184) but it caused an up­set by play­ing a 1-1 draw against hosts In­dia in Kolkata. De­spite its two de­feats in three matches, Bangladesh’s per­for­mances has been promis­ing and the mar­gins were nar­row in its two losses.

Bangladesh lost 0-1 to Afghanista­n in Dushanbe and 0-2 to Qatar at home last month, be­fore the draw against In­dia. Coach Jamie Day of Eng­land said that he had a ‘ game plan’ to tackle Oman and hoped his play­ers can ex­e­cute it per­fectly.

Else­where, In­dia faces Afghanista­n in Dushanbe look­ing for its first win in the group.

Oman goal­keeper Ali al Habsi (cen­tre) goes through a drill at the Sul­tan Qa­boos Sports Com­plex as goal­keep­ing coach Mabrouki Chedli (left) looks on

Bangladesh play­ers at a train­ing ses­sion at the SQSC ahead of Thurs­day’s 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing match against Oman

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