MUSCAT (Reuters) – Coach Paul Le Guen has guided Oman to a third Asian Cup appearance and despite being drawn in the toughest of groups, the well-travelled Frenchman is confident he can lead the side into the knockout stages for the first time.
Oman would have been fearing the worst when they were drawn in Group A with hosts Australia, regional giants South Korea and Kuwait, and few will expect them to progress from a pool that contains two of Asia’s regular World Cup representatives.
Le Guen, however, says his side are ready to face up to the challenge, firmly believing they can advance from the group after previous failures in 2004 and 2007.
Should they get anything out of their opening match against South Korea in Canberra on Jan 10, or the Socceroos in Sydney three days later, Oman could be in a strong position ahead of the match against a Kuwait side they thrashed 5-0 in November.
However, with a patchy lead-up to the competition and back-to-back matches against two of the pre-tournament favourites, any victory against Kuwait is likely to end up being a consolation win in another group stage exit.
Barring Wigan Athletic goalkeeper and skipper Ali Al-Habsi, Oman will arrive in Australia with an entirely home-based squad, who have had a busy build-up period to the finals, kicking off with an entertaining 4-3 loss to Costa Rica in October.