KUWAIT: On Friday, Oman defeated United Arab Emirates in the final of the 2017 Gulf Cup 5-4 on penalties after 120 minutes of goalless football. Arab News chooses 5 reasons why the trophy is going back to Muscat for only the second time ever.
A miserly defense
It is true what they say, defenses do win championships. Oman conceded just before the half-hour into their first game and then went 450 minutes without their well-organized backline being breached at all. In any tournament, that is a winning statistic and even more impressive that the one goal conceded was from the spot. In open play, Oman gave nothing away. It wasn’t just the backline but the whole team defended from the front, pressing with energy, discipline and intelligence; denying opponents any space at all. It was a real team performance.
Omar Abdulrahman’s big match temperament fails again
The United Arab Emirates star has long been hailed as the biggest talent in Asian football. That may or may not be true but is less debatable is that such talent does not always make the difference it should when the pressure is on and the stakes are high. A last-minute penalty would have secured the trophy but the kick was saved. The same thing happened in the shootout. Players miss from the spot, always have, always will, but given recent failures, it creates more questions about ‘Amoory’.
An old Asian hand on the helm
Oman coach Pim Verbeek knows his way around the Asian block more than most Europeans.The Dutchman took Australia to the 2010 World Cup, three years after leading South Korea to the semifinals of the 2007 Asian Cup and, among other spells, was assistant of United Arab Emirates for a short time in 2005. Verbeek knows how to put a defense together and he produced a string of performances that will be well-remembered for their discipline and organization. It may not always be exciting to watch for the neutral but the thousands of fans in the stadium and many more watching back home enjoyed it immensely.
Impressive goalkeeping stocks
Ali Al Habsi has been the most famous number one, internationally, to come out of Asia in recent years thanks to his stints in the English Premier League. His status as Oman’s best-known player is under threat, at least in the region, thanks to Fayeez Rusheidi. The 29 year-old barely put a glove wrong in the tournament, being beaten just one in five games and that was from the spot. He once again showed his ability in crucial moments in the final saving two penalties Strikers often get the MVP awards in tournaments but letting in just one goal in five games is worthy.
Every champion, or almost every champion, needs a little bit of good fortune and there was some for Oman and not just because group opponent Saudi Arabia did not bring their big guns. Lady luck smiled a little in the semifinal in a real toe-to-toe encounter with Bahrain. There was just one game scored and that was an own goal with a Bahraini header from a corner. At times in the game, Oman were really under the cosh but held out and there were times fate lent a hand, head or boot.. Winners make the most of any fortune that comes their way. Oman did just that.