Oman pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the history of Asian beach soccer in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday, beating Japan on penalties to win the Asian title for the first time ever. In doing so, the Omanis clinched one of the three tickets on offer for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015, where they will make their second appearance in the tournament after Ravenna 2011.
Skippered by the excellent Hani Al Dhabit, Oman cruised through the group phase and showed no little steel in the knockout stages, holding their nerve to see off the fancied Japanese in the showpiece match. FIFA.com looks back at the 2015 AFC Beach Soccer Championship, which saw 15 nations from across Asia do battle on Katara Beach.
Oman, who will be joined in Portugal by Japan and Iran – the same trio that represented Asia at Ravenna 2011 – went unbeaten throughout the competition and racked up an impressive 32 goals in the process, with Ghaith Sebeit and Yahya Al Araimi scoring seven apiece. Goalkeeper Haitham Showan also made a valuable contribution, denying Japanese front-man Takasuke Goto in the final shoot-out to seal the title for his side.
The Omanis’ campaign began with emphatic group-phase wins over Bahrain, Laos and hosts Qatar. Then came a 7-2 defeat of China PR in the quarter-finals, followed by a hard-fought 5-4 extra-time win over Lebanon, the prelude to their 3-2 shoot-out success against the Japanese, which came after the two sides had drawn 1-1 in normal time.
The other qualifiers
Finalists for the seventh time and coached by the Brazilian Marcelo Mendes, Japan had high hopes of claiming their third Asian crown. They reckoned without Oman’s solid rearguard, however, and had to settle for second best, despite raining in 23 shots on goal.
The Japanese began their march to the final with wins over Group B rivals Kuwait, Vietnam and China PR. The Samurai Blue saw off Bahrain in the last eight before ending reigning champions Iran’s title defence with a 5-4 victory in the semis.
The Iranians gained some consolation by beating tournament revelations Lebanon 8-3 in the match for third place. Taking part in the continental finals for the only second time, the Lebanese were no match for the 2013 champions, who had earlier edged them 3-2 in the group phase. Iran also beat Thailand 8-1 in the first round, and went on to put six past the United Arab Emirates in the quarters before going down to the Japanese.
The key players
Aside from the front pairing formed by Ghaith Sebeit and Yahya Al Araimi and goalkeeper Haitham Showan, who was in superlative form in both the semi and the final, Oman were also indebted to captain Hani Al Dhabit, who came up with some crucial goals, among them the opener in the final.
Playing a no less valuable role for Japan was their skipper Ozu Moreira, who was named player of the tournament after helping himself to eight goals, the same number as his team-mate Takasuke Goto. Together the duo accounted for over half of their side’s goal tally.
Iran’s Seyed Peyman Hosseini was named best goalkeeper thanks to his decisive stops, which proved crucial to their safe passage to Portugal 2015. Forward Mohammad Ahmadzadeh also earned a share of the limelight with seven goals, four of them coming in Iran’s meeting with Lebanon.
Haitham Fattal hit the back of the net seven times for the Lebanese, while their keeper Mohamed Choker found time to score against both Uzbekistan and the Iranians.
Among the other players making names for themselves in Doha were Vietnam’s Bui Tran Tuan Anh, who struck eight goals in only three matches, and the UAE’s Ali Hasan, whose formidable long-range shooting was not enough to take his side to what would have been their fifth world finals.
8 - the number of times that Japan have now qualified for the world finals in a row, a record no other Asian side can match. Iran will be taking part in their third consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and their sixth in all, while Oman are appearing on the big stage for only the second time, and the first as continental champions.