Oman's Gulf glee
© AFP

Perennial outsiders in their early appearances in the Gulf Cup, Oman suffered one defeat after another in their first six appearances in the competition. It was not until their seventh attempt, in Saudi Arabia in 1988, that they won their first game.

After following that with fourth-place finishes in 1990, 1998 and 2003, Oman really emerged as a force in the region at Qatar 2004, where they reached their first final only to lose to the hosts on penalties. They came agonisingly close again in 2007, when it was the turn of UAE to deprive them of glory, Ismail Matar’s lone goal deciding the final in the hosts’ favour.

However, it was a case of third time lucky when they themselves staged hosted the tournament for the third time in 2009. Drawn against Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq in Group A, Oman got off to a disappointing start with a goalless draw with Kuwait. They quickly bounced back, however, with a resounding 4-0 drubbing of the Iraqis in their second outing thanks to a memorable hat-trick from Hassan Rabie, the tournament’s surprise Most Valuable Player and top scorer. They then rounded things off with a 3-0 victory over Bahrain to take top spot and advance comfortably to the last four. 

In the semis, striker Rabie scored the only goal of the game against Qatar, earning Oman a final berth for the third consecutive edition. Blocking the hosts’ path to the title, though, were a vastly-experienced Saudi side in search of their fourth Gulf Cup triumph. 

It was to prove a battle royal between two sides that had yet concede a goal at the competition. With a passionate home crowd roaring them on and veteran French coach Claude Le Roy in the dugout, the hosts took control of the game. They had two clear chances to break the deadlock but were twice denied by the crossbar, so after a scoreless 120 minutes it came down to penalties. 

After the first ten spot kicks were all converted, Saudi midfielder Tayseer Al Jassim’s sent his effort wide, allowing defender Mohamed Rabie to slot home the winning kick and spark wild celebrations in the Sultan Qaboos Stadium and throughout the Omani capital of Muscat. 

With that memorable victory on this day in 2009, Oman clinched their first Gulf Cup title, becoming the sixth team - and third in a row - to lift the crown on home soil. Since then, no other host nation has managed to win the trophy.