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Al Habsi targets Cup final landmark
Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi admits he is desperate to become the first Omani to play in the FA Cup final after his side's 2-0 win over Millwall booked their place in the Wembley showpiece.
Al Habsi was back in the Wigan starting line-up for Saturday's semi-final after several weeks on the bench following a lacklustre display against Liverpool and he produced a flawless performance as the Latics saw off their Championship opponents to reach their first ever FA Cup final.
The 31-year-old, who has 91 caps for Oman, has dreamed of playing in the Cup final since attending Chelsea's Wembley victory over Portsmouth with his family in 2010.
And after winning back his place from on-loan Spaniard Joel Robles, Al Habsi is determined to ensure he is still in goal when Roberto Martinez's side return to Wembley to face either Chelsea or Manchester City next month.
"I've missed the last few games in the league. That was the gaffer's decision, but we have a big squad and everybody has to be ready," Al Habsi said.
"This feeling today in the semi-final was fantastic and I imagine the final will be something amazing.
"I came to watch Chelsea v Portsmouth in the final. It was the first time I had come to Wembley. The Cup final is a great day to watch football.
"I was there with my mum and brother. I told my her, 'pray for me and one day I will be in the final'.
"The dream has come true for me today and she will be here for the final."
The Premier League continues to grow more and more popular in the Middle East and Al Habsi believes his presence in the final will ensure a massive television audience back home in Oman.
"I will be the first from Oman and the Middle East to play in the final. Everyone is so happy there. I am so proud for myself and the team," Al Habsi said.
"Millions of people there watch the Premier League and English football. It is huge. You can see every house follows the Premier League.
"Many people from the Middle East will watch this game now I am in the final."
Al Habsi, who joined Wigan from Bolton in 2011 after a successful loan spell, would love a final showdown with City as it would pit the Omani against a club owned by Abu Dhabi's Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayhan.
"I have a lot of friends from the Emirates. So if it is Wigan v City in the final it will be Oman v Emirates," he said.
After living up to their billing as favourites against Millwall, the Wigan goalkeeper is confident his team can also thrive as underdogs whoever they face in the final.
"Everyone expected Everton to beat us in the quarter-finals but we had a fantastic result. That is what we have to do in the final," he added.
"We have to be relaxed and enjoy it."
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