Ivankovic omits ‘Kano’
National football team coach announces Oman’s final preparatory plans ahead of joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in June
Is it the end of the road for experienced midfielder and former Oman captain Ahmed Mubarak 'Kano' with the national football team? His omission by the national team coach, Branko Ivankovic of Croatia, on Tuesday while announcing the probables for thenext overseas camp in Dubai, UAE, raised many eyebrows though the coach was effusive in his praise of the 36 year old player.
A total of 29 probables have been called up for the upcoming camp from April 17-May 5.
Kano is Oman's most capped international footballer with 180 caps, and hopes were high that the coach would include the Gulf Cup-winning player in the list for the upcoming camp.
Currently playing for Qatar's Al Markhiya club, Kano had missed the previous national team camp last month in Dubai, UAE, due to 'travel curbs'.
Speaking about the experienced star's omission, Ivankovic said, “Kano is one of the most experienced players in the country. Along with Ali al Habsi, they are legends and have made immense contribution to Oman football. Unfortunately, he has been away from the team for a long period.
“Our focus is to prepare the team nicely for the joint qualifiers in June. Our aim is to get the team ready for the forthcoming assignments and accomplish our desired goals.”
The Croatian added, “The Oman Football Association is closely following up with Kano on his future plans.”
Following the cancellation of the domestic football season ahead of schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ivankovic's plans to watch his players in action in the Omantel League were put paid.
In consultations with the OFA, the coach has now arranged overseas camps ahead of the remaining rounds of the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Group E qualifiers.
Ivankovic was pleased by the bio-secure arrangements in Dubai during the previous camp in March and for this reason, the coach has opted again for his next two camps in Dubai in April and May.
Placed in Group E, Oman is second in the group behind World Cup hosts and Asian Cup champions Qatar.
The Red Warriors (12 points) trail the leaders by four points but have a game in hand.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has decided to host the remaining rounds of the Group E qualifiers in Doha in June, with Oman meeting Qatar on June 7.
The Red Warriors play Afghanistan on June 11 before concluding the campaign on June 15 with a match against Bangladesh. The four best runners-up across all eight groups will advance to the World Cup qualifying third round and Asian Cup. The remaining four runners-up will advance to the Asian Cup qualifying third round.
Emphasis on youth
The probables list for Dubai camp does not include senior players like Raeed Ibrahim, Eid al Farsi and Ali al Nahar but 14 of the players picked are in the age-group of 17-26 years.
Addressing a press meet on Tuesday, Ivankovic said, “We need to have the best possible squad assembled for the qualifiers. Three more matches are remaining in the qualification and we have to improve our technical standards to ensure a top-two finish.
“We will have three camps ahead of the qualifiers with the first in Dubai. During our camp in Dubai, we will play against two local UAE clubs.
“The main objective is to maintain high fitness level of our players. The next stage of our preparations will be completed after Eid holidays next month.”
Two friendlies in MayIvankovic said that the second overseas camp will also be in Dubai and is scheduled from May 16-30.
Oman is scheduled to play two international friendlies during this camp.
Oman will meet Thailand on May 25 and then play against Indonesia on May 29.
The Red Warriors third and final camp will be in Qatar from June 1-5 before their game against the hosts.
The 67 year old coach also called up three new players from the Olympic team. They are goalkeeper Yousuf al Shiyadi, Arshad al Alawi and defended Saud al Habsi.
Ivankovic hoped that Jameel al Yahmadi's release issues with his club – Al Markhiya - will be sorted and the player could be available for the camp and the qualifiers. The coach hoped that the injured striker Mundhir al Alawi, who is on recovery path, will be fit for the June qualifiers.
Oman probables: Faiz al Rushaidi, Yousuf al Shiyadi, Ahmed al Rawahi, Ibrahim al Mukhaini, Mohammed al Musalami, Ahmed al Khumaisi, Issam al Subhi, Fahmi Said, Juma al Habsi, Abdulaziz al Ghailani, Ali al Busaidi, Ahmed al Kaabi, Abbas al Hashami, Abdullah Fawaz, Arshad al Alawi, Harib Jameel, Yazeed al Mashani, Amjad al Harthy, Zahr al
Aghbari, Salah al Yahyaei, Omar al Fazari, Mohsin Jawhar, Yaseen al Sheyadi, Abdulaziz al Miqbali, Mohammed al Ghafri, Khalid al Hajri, Mohsin al Ghassani, Omar al Malki and Saud al Habsi.