Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

Oman's Ahmed Mubarak was named man of the match in his side's semifinal victory over Bahrain in the Gulf Cup. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Oman’s captain Ahmed Mubarak reaches Gulf Cup final, becomes a father

DUBAI: Oman captain Ahmed Mubarak had triple reason to celebrate on Tuesday. He reached the Gulf Cup final, was named man of the match and became a father.
“I dedicate this win to my dear wife and my new born baby,” he said following Oman’s 1-0 victory over Bahrain in Kuwait. “We haven’t named him yet, so we have to look into this now. I was a bit nervous but I finally received the good news [about becoming a father] before the match. I am glad to have been named man of the match. Credit goes to my teammates who have all fought hard and helped me play well. Bahrain were a strong team and applied a lot of pressure on us, especially in the second half, but we managed to get the all-important win.”
Naming his son will probably be the easier task for Mubarak than facing neighbors and favorites UAE in Friday’s final. The two contested the 2007 final, with the Whites lifting the trophy on that occasion. Oman will be out for revenge.
Mubarak has fond memories of facing the UAE on Kuwaiti soil, having scored his maiden international goal in a 2-0 win against the Whites at the 2003 Gulf Cup. He is optimistic of repeating the result. “I hope I can bring the trophy home,” he said. “It would be a great gift for my family and for our fans.”
The veteran midfielder, 32, was a key cog in the Oman sides that reached the Gulf Cup final in 2004 and 2007, losing twice before finally winning the title on home turf in 2009 alongside the likes of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Al-Habsi missed the opportunity to make a fourth appearance in the final, as his club side Al-Hilal refused to make him available for national team duty, but his replacement Fayez Al-Rashidi has been one of the stars of the tournament.
Oman’s No. 18 is yet to concede a single goal from open play in the tournament. In fact, the only player to beat him was UAE’s Ali Mabkhout from the spot in the opening match. Al-Rashidi’s heroics between the sticks ensured Al-Habsi was missed by the Reds.
“Whether it is me or Ali, we all just try to represent the Sultanate in the best way possible,” said Rashidi. “I am thankful that I was able to step up and perform so well in this tournament. We did a good job against a difficult Bahrain side and made it to the final. I would like to thank our fans who turned out in good numbers and supported us. I hope we see even more fans in the final. We are now very close to the title and we will give our best to win on Friday and do our fans proud.”


Morocco proud of its Atlas Lions despite Portugal defeat, World Cup exit

Updated 20 June 2018
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Morocco proud of its Atlas Lions despite Portugal defeat, World Cup exit

  • While Morocco were on top for long periods, the Atlas Lions could not get the goal they deserved and needed
  • Ronaldo, named man of the match by FIFA after his fourth goal of the World Cup so far, recognized that it was a tough game

MOSCOW: Morocco became the first team to exit the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday after a 1-0 loss to Portugal in Moscow left coach Herve Renard to reflect on what could have been had he been able to call up Cristiano Ronaldo.
Just five days after his hat-trick against Spain in a 3-3 thriller, the Real Madrid star was once again the difference-maker and scored the only goal of the game with a fourth-minute header.
While Morocco were on top for long periods, the Atlas Lions could not get the goal they deserved and needed. It was a similar outcome to the opening 1-0 loss to Iran when the North Africans had chances to win, but ended with nothing.
It leaves Morocco with zero points from two games in Group B and unable to finish in the top two with a final game against Spain on Monday now just a matter of pride.
“This is what happens in football,” Renard said. “In the penalty area at crucial times, the most gifted players are the ones who make all the difference. It is a lot easier to play with a player who can score from a goal opportunity. We have high quality players and should have been more effective as we had lots of chances.”
Ronaldo, named man of the match by FIFA after his fourth goal of the World Cup so far, recognized that it was a tough game for the European champions who now have four points from two games.
“I am very happy to score, but it is more important to win the game and get the points,” Ronaldo said. “We know if we lost we could be out. We knew they would be trying very hard and were very strong. It was a really tough game for us, but I managed to get the goal, and it was beautiful.”
Morocco were unhappy with the goal, with Renard asking reporters to look at the corner from which Portugal scored, hinting that Portuguese defender Pepe had fouled one of his players. “Have a good look at the corner kick and what the number three is doing and write the truth. I can’t say too much or I will be punished.”
As it is, however, Morocco are out regardless of what happens against Spain on June 25. Renard has, however, insisted that the team will leave Russia with their heads held high.
“I am not disappointed with the performance,” the French coach said. “I am very proud of my players, very proud of the country and proud of the staff. The whole Moroccan people are proud, even very proud, of this team. It felt like Casablanca in here and that is something you can never take away from the players.”
The well-travelled 49-year-old reflected on Morocco’s journey since he took the job in February 2016. “Then we were ranked 81 and now we are 41 and came to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Here we have shown we can play football, we do play football.”
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos paid tribute to the North Africans.
“They played well and challenged us. It is maybe an unfair result for them, that is football. If you score, you can win. I am not happy with the way we played, but we played against a good team.”