Pressure points for Iraq and Oman
Tournament heavyweight Iraq faces must-win battle against Oman in Gulf Cup.
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2009 14:13 GMT

Tension headache for Jorvan Viera? [AFP]
The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Two football coaches arrived at the clifftop Crowne Plaza hotel in Muscat on Tuesday with a lot to do if their sides were not to plummet into the abyss that welcomes Gulf Cup also-rans.

Iraq boss Jorvan Vieira and Oman counterpart Claude Le Roy were the picture of good chums as they greeted each other in front of the region's press.

But hearty pats on the back will have to be consigned to the dustbin on Wednesday night at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.

Asian Cup 2007 champions Iraq are still smarting from a 3-1 defeat by Arabian Gulf islanders Bahrain on Sunday, while home favourites Oman failed to break down Kuwait for a disappointing nil-nil.

Big game

If Iraq lose this group A fixture they will definitely be out – while an Oman loss would see them needing a win in their final match against the Bahrainis to have any hope.

Acceptable for the likes of invitees Yemen, but not for tournament heavyweights or hosts.

Much rides on the result of Bahrain against Kuwait in the night's second match.

Abdullah al-Dakhil bags Bahrain's third [AFP]
Brazilian Vieira has been around the block, starting at homeland giants Vasco de Gama in the 1970s and going on to be assistant manager for surprise package Morocco at the 1986 World Cup.

One defeat, however surprising, was unlikely to get him too worried.

"The points lost are impossible to recuperate," he said.

"In the Asian Cup we drew the first match, won the second and drew the third.

"We qualified with five points – and still have six points to play for here."

Fired up

The task against Oman is made harder by the red cards shown to Haitham Tahir and keeper Nour Sabri in the first match, while various injuries are shaking the team.

But if Vieira's reply to a question about the reaction of his squad to the Bahrain loss is anything to go by, indignant anger may be one of Iraq's weapons.

"What do you expect the reaction to be when you lose a match?", he challenged.

"In a football match you can do one of three things, you can win, you can draw or you can lose.

"It wasn't our day that day. But there's no reason to put our heads down and say, 'that's it'.

"I've learned in my career that you can't live in the past – you have to live in the present.

"The present is Oman."

Le Roy confident

Oman supporters feeling the pressure [AL JAZEERA]

Le Roy for his part was lucky to be present at the press conference after his hotel locked his car in a garage and the Frenchman had to mount a search for someone to open the door.

But he was sure that Oman wouldn't see the gates slam in their face after final appearances at both the last Gulf Cups saw expectations raised in the Sultanate, ranked 96 in the world.

"We're more relaxed than we were before the first game and I feel we will see another image of the national team of Oman tomorrow against Iraq," he said.

Indeed he seemed less worried by the calibre of his 72nd-ranked opponents than by the organisers' refusal to allow him his entire backroom staff in the dugout – and by some unsavoury characters supposedly masquerading as journalists at the conference.

"Before I pick my team I have to choose seven or eight of my staff to be with me at the pitch," he said.

"The rest must watch in the stands. This is stupid.

"They are not spectators, they are part of the team.

"I think the official committee has to change the rules because it is causing a lot of restriction."

Posing for pictures as he left, Le Roy called out: "Some people in this conference are not journalists, they are agents. They are merchants of slaves."

Now it is Oman's turn to make an impression.

Al Jazeera
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