Oman aims for berth at FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

The national beach soccer team with coach Talib Hilal (third from right) at the sports ministry’s awards ceremony on Monday (C B Santosh/Muscat Daily)

Oman coach Talib Hilal hopes to guide the reigning Asian champion to its third appearance at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup when it defends the title at the AFC Asian Beach Soccer Championship in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, starting later this week. 

The Asian meet, organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), will be held from March 4-11 at Pantai Batu Buruk beach.

Oman begins its campaign only on March 6 with a Group B match against Thailand. It then plays Lebanon on March 8. The team departs for Malaysia on Friday.

In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily on Tuesday, a day after the team was honoured for its silver-medal win at the fifth Asian Beach Games in Da Nang, Vietnam last year, Talib Hilal said, “My main goal is to book a place in the FIFA World Cup. The top three Asian teams will qualify for the World Cup to be held in Bahamas in April.

“It is going to be a challenge, but if we qualify for the final, then we are assured of a berth in the World Cup. I can then focus on defending the title.”

The experienced beach soccer coach said, “The late pullout of Uzbekistan from our group means there are only three teams left in the pool.

“It makes it difficult as we now need to win both the matches to secure a place in the semifinals.”


Oman’s Hani al Dhabit (right) in action during a friendly against Bahrain

Talib Hilal, who has been the coach of the team on both the previous occasions when Oman made it to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Ravenna, Italy (2011) and Espinho, Portugal (2015), said, “The opening game against Thailand is crucial to our campaign. We have to win the opener as we would be halfway through. We can then concentrate on our match against Lebanon for a place in the semis.”

The winners from the three groups and the best second-placed team among the 12 competing teams will enter the semifinals. The top three teams will fly the Asian flag at the 2017 worlds in the Bahamas, which is scheduled to begin on April 27.

Friendlies useful, says Oman coach

Talib Hilal said the team's recent friendly series against hosts Bahrain and then two games in Muscat against Switzerland, one of the top teams in the world, have served as worthwhile preparations for his boys.

“The wins against the visiting Swiss side has boosted the morale of our players as Switzerland is currently ranked sixth in the world,” said the Oman coach.

Oman defeated Switzerland 9-4 and 5-4 in the two games that were played at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, while it trounced Bahrain 6-1 in the first game and then beat it 3-2 in the next outing played in Manama last month.

Talib Hilal said the core of his team remains the same that won the silver in Vietnam and only two new players - Abdullah al Balushi and Khazar al Battashi - have been added for the Asian championship.

Oman had lost to Japan 3-4 in the final of the Asian Beach Games after having dragged the contest to extra-time.

Team for Asian championship: Haitham Showan, Amjad al Hamadani, Yahya al Araimi, Jalal al Sinani, Abdullah al Sooti, Nooh al Zadjali, Hani al Dhabit, Khalid al Araimi, Mundhir al Araimi, Musheel al Araimi, Abdullah al Balushi and Khazar al Battashi.

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