Qatar heroes ready to rock
Bruno Metsu's Qatar out to deny Omani dream as they meet in Gulf Cup semi-finals.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2009 11:06 GMT

After you, Claude: Metsu and Le Roy get pally ahead of their match [AL JAZEERA]

The two Frenchmen who strode into the press conference on the eve of the Gulf Cup semi-finals in Muscat have seen both edges of the sword when it comes to guiding a host nation into the final.

This time last year, Oman coach Claude Le Roy was watching his Ghana side go out of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 1-0 defeat to Cameroon in front of 40,000 fans at Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra.

A year earlier, Qatar boss Bruno Metsu – then in charge of UAE – saw his side's home semi against Saudi Arabia heading for extra time before Ismail Matar popped up with an injury time winner to take the Emiratis through to a victorious Gulf Cup final against Oman.

Now Metsu hopes to impose another defeat on the Sultanate and stop Le Roy guiding them to their first title after two successive losing finals.

Travel baggage

And he is determined to prove that Qatar are capable of winning the trophy away from home following their successes in Doha in 1992 and 2004.

But while the pair waxed lyrical on the advantages and disadvantages of playing at home, Metsu was in no doubt as to what he saw as a major hindrance to his team's progress.

"Oman played their last match a day earlier than us, so they have had a whole extra day to recover," he said, his jovial mood briefly being replaced by anger.

"The organisers of the Gulf Cup need to think about this problem because it is a big problem for the players.

"You don't have it in the World Cup that one team has a day's rest more than their opponents.

"It is a very, very big advantage, believe me."

Clean sheets rubbished

Oman have kept three clean sheets to go alongside their seven goals in qualifying, but that didn't stop one journalist at Tuesday's conference challenging Le Roy on the team's defensive frailties.

Oman pause for prayers during training [AFP]
"All the coaches of the world will be happy to have a weak defence with zero goals conceded," responded a bemused Le Roy.

"I'm happy to be very weak like that."

Qatar have shipped just one goal, in their last-gasp win over Yemen that saw them sneak into the semis on Sunday.

And while they will be without injured centre back Abdullah Koni against what is likely to be a full-strength Oman team, form suggests a tight game.

If that should produce extra time and penalties, however, Le Roy is deciding to treat it philosophically.

Mental block

"Penalty shoot-outs are only a psychological moment in football," he said.

"All the best players in the world can miss a penalty – John Terry, Cristiano Ronaldo, all of them.

"It's not a technical matter or a physical matter – when the players shoot, the goal either looks very large or it looks very small.

"I could order the players to take 100 penalties in training but I don't think it would change anything."

While Le Roy said he felt the pressure of delivering the Omani people's "dream", he was quick to give that pressure some context.

"People are talking about the pressure of this game but the real pressure is what people are feeling in Gaza and other parts of the world," he said.

"The pressure in football is a very healthy pressure. We're so happy to do this job, to follow our passion every day.

"So we will see what happens, but I think this will be a beautiful semi-final."

Oman kick off against Qatar at 14:00 GMT on Wednesday at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex for a place in the final against either Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, who play three hours later on the same pitch.

Al Jazeera
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