DOHA: Oman's coach Milan Macala has stirred up Qatar's preparations for the Gulf Cup final by hinting the hosts would not be able to cope with the pressures of Friday's big match.
Macala, known as much for his toughness with players as for airing wild statements without much regard for facts or figures, sought to underplay his team's chances even though Oman are on the verge of winning their first regional title.
“Even if Oman finish second we wouldn't complain much, but of course Id like us to win,” said the Czech national, who has plied his trade all over the Gulf.
He then upped the psychological ante by saying the hosts would be under tremendous pressure to win the match because they are playing on home turf.
“We are under no pressure,” declared Macala.
“In fact if you ask me it's the Qataris who would be feeling all the pressure because they feel they have to win the match anyhow.”
Oman's best finish to date is a fourth place while Qatar's only Gulf Cup title came in 1992 when they hosted the event which was then played on a round-robin league basis.
In this tournament the hosts have shown steady improvement, finishing unbeaten in Group A to qualify with five points.
Qatar actually defeated Oman 2-1 in their last group game after thrilling draws against the United Arab Emirates and Iraq and a 2-0 victory over nine-time champions Kuwait in the semi-finals.
Oman, however, had rested a few of their key players including star striker Imad al-Hossani for that game in order to preserve them for the final, a fact Qatar coach Dzemaluddin Musovic is fully aware of.
“Oman have played very well in this tournament and they would be in full strength for the final so it's up to us to raise our game further,” said the Bosnian, who is also the chief coach of top league team Qatar Sports Club.
He was handed temporary charge of the Qatar national team after Frenchman Philippe Troussier failed to work his magic and was sacked following the country's dismal show at the Asian Cup in which they failed to progress beyond the group stage.
A victory in the Gulf Cup could lead to him taking over the team on a permanent basis, but such thoughts were far from his mind.
“I am only thinking about Qatar's victory in the final at the moment,” said the soft-spoken Musovic.
“I don't want to speculate about anything beyond that. We can't have any distractions going into the game that will be full of pressure. All our players are keen to achieve the biggest success of their careers so far.”
Both coaches expect an attacking game that had been a feature of their strategy throughout with the strikers given a free run resulting in a number of spectacular goals.
Oman's al-Hossani in particular has been very effective up front poaching four goals so far to be the top scorer while Qatar's Waleed Jassim is close behind on three.
Jassim along with Syed Basheer and Hussain Yasser have proved to be more than a handful for rival defences with their speed and opportunism.
“I don't need to say how important they are for our team and what role they have played in our success so far,” said Musovic.
“But their performance on Friday would be vital.
“I hope it's their best day of the tournament.”
Qatar have already won the Gulf Cup volleyball and basketball tournaments being held simultaneously with the football for the first time.
But it's the football title they are after. “Nothing compares with the joy of winning the Gulf Cup football title,” said fan Ahmed Ali who partied all night on the seafront after Qatar's semi-final win over Kuwait.
“You can never imagine the heartbreak if Qatar were to lose the final. It will be a total disaster.” – AFP