AFC Asian Cup: Gap between Asian small, big teams reducing: Oman coach
Oman coach Pim Verbeek is backing the 24 team format.
By Ashwani Kumar
Published: Sat 19 Jan 2019, 8:56 PM
Last updated: Sat 19 Jan 2019, 11:00 PM
Oman 'Reds' are on the move. For the first time ever, Oman have marched into the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup. This follows success at the Gulf Cup and Oman head coach Pim Verbeek said the experience of Asian Cup bodes well for his players as they prepare for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers and the next Gulf Cup.
In a in a candid chat, Verbeek said the gap between small and big teams was narrowing in Asia.
Q: What does 24-team Asian Cup format means for teams like Oman?
A: This format is good for teams which normally don't make it to the Asian Cup. It helps teams like Oman get good international experience. This is the only way for us to get better. It's OK that you may lose to Japan, India and others but you can learn. You see the last games for lot of teams were interesting. Now every game is a big game. It wasn't just about Iraq-Iran but also about Oman-Turkmenistan. Smaller teams have fought and surprised. My players have done well under pressure. This is good for their experience, especially with World Cup qualifiers and the Gulf Cup again. So 24-team tournament is just perfect.
Q: Which team impressed you the most in this tournament?
A: Jordan are a big surprise. India too surprised. They were very unlucky to get a 90-minute penalty to be in or out. India showed they are coming. China are doing well. I haven't seen the UAE play so far. My feeling is that the gap between the top six in Asia and the rest is getting closer. But there's a long way to go for us. We have Omani players playing back home and second division in Qatar. We played Japan who got nine players playing in Europe. The experience gap is always there, but for my players to run hard and compete, it's good for us and for Asian football.
Q: How do you the growth of Oman football?
A: We have done well in 2018. We also won the Gulf Cup. Nobody expected anything from us but we built up a nice team for the Gulf Cup. I took five young new players in my squad. All of them didn't start but for Omani football it is very important to sometimes bring fresh legs and talented players. We had an unbeaten run last year till we get beaten in big way by Australia. We still have to improve to play in tournaments like the Asian Cup. The level of all the teams is higher than what we are used to. We are working hard from last year to convert on our chances to score goals.
Q: How do you rate the Oman Professional League?
A: We miss international experience. It is difficult for players to get success in the AFC Champions League and other such tournaments. What also happens in Oman is players change from one club to another. One year it will be with Suwaiq and next year will be Dhofar. And the clubs too change coach very easily. It's club's decision but at the end all of this influences my work. But that's Oman. I have to deal with it.