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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 30/12/2012

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman had a forgettable campaign in the just-concluded Asian Champions Trophy in Doha, Qatar, losing five of its six round-robin matches to finish fifth in a pool of six teams.But K K Poonacha, the national team's interim coach, isn't entirely disappointed with the overall result as Oman managed to score an upset win against higher ranked Japan. Poonacha said the result against Japan has been a key positive' and is a 'motivation' for the team in the future.Oman, currently ranked 36th in the world, upstaged the 16th-ranked Japan 2-1 in the fifth-place playoff match. The sultanate team finished behind Pakistan, India, Malaysia and China. Speaking to Muscat Daily upon returning to Muscat on Saturday, Poonacha said, ''We lost to Japan 1-7 in the group stage.But then I was pleased with the way the team pulled itself back in the playoff game and defeated Japan.'' Poonacha was appointed as interim coach by the Oman Hockey Association (OHA) merely a week before the tournament. In the run-up to the big event, the OHA had initially announced that Oman wouldn't play, citing poor preparations. However, the association changed its decision with the tournament just round the corner, hurriedly picking Poonacha to guide the seemingly under-prepared side for the competition featuring Asia's top nations.''It gets difficult to keep the team spirit high if they lose by big margins, one match after another, like it happened during the group stage,'' Poonacha said. ''I told the players to forget those results and learn from the huge exposure they were getting. ''I asked them to focus on the last match [against Japan], which would improve our ranking.They did well by playing fantastic hockey in that game.'' Poonacha pointed to 25 year old midfielder Mahmood Salim as Oman's highlight from this tournament and also praised skipper and goalkeeper Abduljabbar al Balushi for his performance in the playoff. ''The whole team is motivated after having won the last game in the tournament. The players did whatever they could do with just one week's preparation. They need to play more tournaments,'' said Poonacha, who coaches Ahli-Sidab Club. It is now learned that the OHA is keen on finalising a permanent coach for the national team.The OHA board is scheduled to meet in a couple of days' time, and Poonacha is the frontrunner. Poonacha, who coached Oman from April 2010 to December 2011, said he is ready to take up the job again, if offered. ''I am open to it and want to work with the team. But I will look forward to it only if it is a long-term contract,'' he said.


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