Doha, Qatar – Branko Ivankovic has full faith in his Oman side to get the job done when they face Thailand in their Asian Cup Group F tie on Sunday.
Satisfied with his team’s spirited performance despite the 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening match, Ivankovic is certain Oman have what it takes to bounce back and reignite their knockout stage hopes.
“When we saw the draw, we knew that it was a difficult group. With all due respect to our next opponents, our primary objective is to win,” said the Croatian coach.
“We are fully prepared and want to be focused and play as good a game as we did against Saudi Arabia.”
Against three-time champions Saudi Arabia, Oman held on to their 1-0 lead for 78 minutes before conceding twice which – according to Ivankovic- was a clear indication of what his players are capable of.
“We proved against Saudi Arabia that we are able to match any opponent we face. They are one of the top favourites and were the only team to beat the world champions (Argentina) last year (FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022). Against such a tough opponent, we lost out only in the 97th minute.
“I understand the anger and sadness of the fans but I have a lot of belief in this team. I am proud of them and am not going to make unnecessary changes.
“Thailand had a terrific opening game and while there is pressure on us to bounce back, we enjoy it because that’s what football is all about – performing under pressure. My responsibility is to establish a winning culture in the dressing room and motivate my boys to give their best.”
Thailand kicked off their journey with a 2-0 victory against the Kyrgyzstan but head coach Masatada Ishii has refused to let his players get carried away.
“Starting the competition on a winning note is obviously great and it gave us a fair idea of how well-prepared we are,” said Ishii, who led Kashima Antlers to the J1 League in 2016.
“But we were handed a heavy defeat by Japan (5-0 in a friendly) not so long ago. So, while I’m pleased to have collected three points, I think there is still work to be done.
“Oman have a very strong midfield and a lot of our work is to find ways to contain them. If you look at their earlier game, they got their lead and resorted to defending. It’s just that a team like Saudi Arabia is good enough to break that down and overcome the deficit and thus, we have a lot of work to do.“