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Asian Cup 2015: Can Paul Le Guen guide underdogs Oman to success?

| 30.11.2014

Persian Gulf outfit Oman are understandably outsiders alongside regional rivals Kuwait in Asian Cup Group A, which also contains tournament tips Australia and South Korea.

However, the Red Warriors will certainly feel they can have a say in the outcome of this problematic pool, perhaps cashing in on their favourable status as underdogs and potential to surprise.

Former Rangers boss and Ligue 1 winning coach Paul Le Guen appears to be the ace up their sleeve, and has had time to prepare and perfect his side since joining this little known football nation in 2011.

The Omani FA, who only formed officially in 2005, are tough customers, having previously sacked Claude Le Roy just two years after he delivered their only ever trophy, a Gulf Cup, on home soil.

Embarrassment in Australia could see ex-Cameroon and PSG manager Le Guen meet the same fate as his predecessor, so the Red Warriors will certainly be well-drilled.

Captain and custodian Ali Al-Habsi is perhaps Oman’s most familiar face. The Wigan Athletic keeper, who recently returned from a one-month loan deal at Brighton and Hove Albion, is the only current international from his country to ply his trade in Europe.

Famous for his spot kick saves, centurion Al-Habsi has experience of playing in the UEFA Cup for Bolton Wanderers, and was also part of the Lactic’s famous 2012/13 FA Cup-winning squad.

Asian Cup newcomers Oman have only qualified for the competition twice before, and have never survived the group stage, so will be relying on their star coach and captain combination to steer them though.

The 2009 Gulf Cup champions have not fared as well in the 2014 edition of the tournament, however, having recently crashed out following defeat to United Arab Emirates.

Inconsistent Oman did manage to thrash Asian Cup Group A competitors Kuwait 5-0 along the way though, which is a promising sign for their pool chances.

Scorers Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, still just 25, and Said Al-Ruzaiqi, 27, made names for themselves by grabbing all five goals between them, and will be two Red Warrior strikers that can pack a punch on the counter.

Le Guen also has veteran attacking midfielder Hani Al-Dhabit at his disposal. The 35-year-old notably lifted the Top Scorer of the Year Award in 2001 for netting 22 times, beating the likes of Luis Figo and Michael Owen to the top gong.

Prolific Al-Dhabit will certainly be one for opposition coaches at the Asian Cup to keep an eye on, even as he likely approaches the twilight of his career, having scored 42 times in 84 caps. Making football history for his nation by qualifying from Group A would be a fine swansong indeed.



Holly Thackeray

Holly is a member of the content team, and can often be found on the sports desk writing about favourite topics Serie A and East Asian footballing nations. A recent darts convert, she is also a fully-fledged member of Barney's Army and a proud Leeds-born Manchester United fan.