MUSCAT // Two top tacticians, Claude Le Roy and Bruno Metsu, will lead two equally talented teams - Oman and Qatar - in tonight's exciting-looking opening semi-final of the Gulf Cup at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. Le Roy, who will be 61 next month, made his name in Africa, where he managed Cameroon, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana before arriving in the Gulf six months ago to take charge of Oman.
Ironically it was only after he had consulted his fellow Frenchman Metsu that Le Roy signed the deal, which was extended up to 2014 by the Oman Football Association before the start of this regional championship. The governing body in Oman will feel elated they had such faith in their man and he repaid some of that confidence by leading the national team to superb victories over Iraq and Bahrain to top Group A here.
But all that will count for nothing if Le Roy's men fail to take those results forward. And the coach said: "There is no question both teams want to win and I would like to think it will be my team. "We have all the players in good shape at the moment but we never know. A lot of things can change in a day." Le Roy had delayed naming his line-up for the match until today. But he has plenty of options and may leave out the midfielder Bader Mubarak al Maymani for the playmaker Ahmed Hadeed.
Al Maymani played an influential role in the last game and it was his curling free kick that set up his team's 2-0 victory over Bahrain after being named in the line-up for the injured Hadeed. Le Roy admitted al Maymani, who plays for the Qatar club Al Rayyan, had an outstanding game but would not say if he intended stick to him or bring Hadeed back instead. Metsu also has African links and he became well known after leading Senegal to the 2002 World Cup quarter finals.
But he feels his team will need more than the good fortune they had in the Yemen game to overcome Oman. "All advantages are for Oman at this point," he said. "They have been in the final of the last two competitions, which were won by the host teams Qatar and the UAE, and now they get an opportunity to play at home. "But we are a good team and have come here to win too. "There is always pressure in every game and my players showed real character in winning the last match.
"So a good game with Oman can still see us through. There is no magic formula and it is the better team on the night." Metsu will miss the services of his captain and central defender Abdulla Koni as he has not recovered from the head injury he suffered in the first match with the UAE and Ibrahim Majid who is suspended after receiving the two bookings. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org