Metsu's next World Cup mission

French coach has the job of showing that Qatar can compete at World Cup 2022 as they kick off the Asian Cup in Doha.

    Metsu is aiming to bring Qatar a first Asian Cup as the countdown begins to their World Cup 2022 appearance [AFP]

    The corkscrew hair and the darting blue eyes with the faintly mad gleam in them were on the sidelines as Senegal upset world champions France 1-0 in the opening match of the World Cup in 2002.

    But the man who guided the West African nation to the quarter-finals in Japan and South Korea nine years ago finds himself in the spotlight as he starts a World Cup mission of another kind on Friday, with the eyes of the world on his team, Qatar.

    Asian Cup 2011

    Group A - China, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan

    Group B - Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria

    Group C - Australia, Bahrain, India, South Korea

    Group D - North Korea, Iran, Iraq, UAE

    While Senegal's World Cup campaign will rank as Bruno Metsu's biggest achievement in football, the Frenchman may already feel a sense of fait accompli for the latest milestone.

    Metsu will always be able to say that he was coach when Qatar qualified for their first World Cup – 12 years ahead of time.

    Of course, the qualification was not done on the pitch. Ranked 114th in the world, Qatar were guaranteed entry when the Gulf state was named host for World Cup 2022 back in December.

    When I asked the 56-year-old on Thursday if he would be hanging on to his job for the next 11 years, he laughingly brushed off such thoughts of longevity.

    "It would be difficult for me to be here in 11 years' time because in football I don't know what will happen to me tomorrow," he said.

    Removal of the Frenchman on Friday is unlikely given that his side kick off the Asian Cup in Doha against Uzbekistan.

    The immediate mission is to show the world that Qatar are not no-hopers in maroon shirts.

    World Cup response

    Response outside the Middle East to Qatar's 2022 success has been largely sceptical, and a poor showing at the Asian Cup – which the team has never won – would be unhelpful.

    And while Metsu has nothing to do in terms of qualifying for 2022, Qatar would prefer to have played at least one World Cup before then.

    Metsu led Senegal to a famous victory over France in the opening match of World Cup 2002 [GALLO/GETTY]

    Qualifying for 2014 and 2018 is fanciful, but not out of the question.

    Nor is a first Asian Cup trophy.

    "Today I dream that anything is possible," said Metsu.

    "I have been with my players for the past month and I see that today we are very strong.

    "After this we have 12 years to prepare, and I think we will show a good team for this World Cup."

    From a playing career at clubs like Lille and Nice in France and Anderlecht in Belgium, and following his two-year stint with Senegal, Metsu won the Asian Champions League with United Arab Emirates side Al Ain, and later the Gulf Cup for the UAE in 2007.

    Form has been mixed since he took the helm with Qatar in 2008, reaching the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup in 2009.

    The team will however hope to emerge from Group A – also containing China and Kuwait as well as the Uzbeks – and improve on their quarter-final finish in 2000.

    Qatar's painful loss to Uzbekistan at the Asian Games in November should provide few indications of form given that it was the under-23s who exited the quarter-finals in Guangzhou, although YouTube fans may remember a pivotal moment from that match.

    The Asian Cup group matches run until January 19 before the knockout rounds culminate in the final at Khalifa Stadium on January 29.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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