Blue Tigers face off against Oman as the AFC Asian Cup draws closer
With the AFC Asian Cup 2019 just under two weeks away, the Blue Tigers will look to put the final touches on their preparations for the big event when they face off against a mighty Oman side at Abu Dhabi on Thursday, December 27. The two sides have faced off on six occasions in the past, with Oman winning four and India just one.
Both teams will be part of the AFC Asian Cup 2019, which begins in January and will look to utilise the match to the maximum to prepare for the continent's biggest footballing spectacle.
Oman have played 11 international matches so far in 2018 and are unbeaten this year with six victories and five draws. The team is currently on a three-match winning streak and will be eager to make it four at the expense of the Blue Tigers on Thursday. Managed by veteran Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, Oman won the prestigious Gulf Cup earlier this year and will look to make a big impression in the AFC Asian Cup. The Omanis are part of the Group F which includes Asian powerhouse Japan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Known for their steady and possession-based style of football, Verbeek's side has proved to be a difficult unit to break down. The Omanis will, however, be without their talismanic captain Ali Al-Habsi for the India match as well as the AFC Asian Cup. The 36-year-old goalkeeper has played for English Premier League sides like Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Reading, and is easily the most famous footballer to have come out from Oman. Despite the loss, Oman are still a formidable side with a host of top-class talents like Abdul Aziz Humaid Mubarak Al-Muqbali, Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri, Mohsin Johar Al-Khaldi, Ali Al-Busaidi and others. Oman are currently ranked 82nd in the FIFA Rankings.
It has been a fruitful year for the Blue Tigers, which saw them qualify for the AFC Asian Cup for only the fourth time in their history and climb steadily in the FIFA Rankings. The Blue Tigers are currently ranked 97th in the world, which is their best ranking in decades.
Stephen Constantine's men are currently busy preparing for the continental showpiece in January and the Oman match might be their final opportunity to fine tune the team before the tournament starts. India are in Group A alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain. The Blue Tigers will start their AFC Asian Cup campaign against Thailand on January 6.
The India team will welcome back top scorer Sunil Chhetri, after the striker missed India's last friendly against Jordan in November due to an ankle injury. Chhetri’s return will be a huge boost for the young Indian squad, which seems determined to make a mark in UAE next month.
Speaking about the match, India head coach Stephen Constantine stated that his team is expecting a tough fixture but are ready for the challenge at hand. "India haven't come here expecting to play easy games,” he said.
India last faced Oman in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifiers and lost both the legs, including the home tie in Bengaluru. "We were very unlucky to lose the first leg in Bengaluru. That was our first group stage game in the qualifiers. But we are a much improved side now, and much younger,” Constantine was quoted as saying in a release put out by the AIFF.
Oman: Faiz Al-Rushaidi (GK), Mohammed Al-Maslami, Ali Salim, Ali Al-Busaidi, Saad Al-Mukhaini, Qasim Said, Ahmed Mubarak Al-Mahaijri, Mohammed Al-Siyabi, Eid Mohammed Al Farsi, Raed Ibrahim Saleh, Abdul Aziz Humaid Mubarak Al-Muqbali
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Subhasish Bose, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa, Udanta Singh, Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua
The match will kick off at 7:30PM IST at the Baniyas Stadium in Abu Dhabi but won’t be broadcast as both head coaches have decided to conduct the fixture behind closed doors. Stay tuned to our social media handles and website for updates on the match.