Oman are on the cusp of a World Cup qualifying dream

Oman's qualifier in Jordan will be a historical leap for the victors, who will take one step closer to the World Cup in Brazil.

Jordan’s Saeed Murjan, left, leads his team into a pivotal World Cup qualifier on Tuesday between hungry Arab nations. Michael Dodge / Getty Images
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It was a sight to bring tears to the eyes of every Omani. Following Wigan Athletic's sensational FA Cup final win over Manchester City, just over five weeks ago, millions of television viewers watched as Wigan's substitute goalkeeper, Ali Al Habsi, walked up the Wembley steps to receive his winner's medal. Draped around his shoulder, proudly, was the Oman flag.

That flag could well be getting even more attention around the world if Oman defeat Jordan on Tuesday night in Amman in their final qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It is no exaggeration to say the match is the most important in the history of the Arabian Gulf nation.

A victory, coupled with Australia failing to beat Iraq, would see Oman qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.

Even a draw would not be the end of the road, although a third-place finish in Group B means their route to the final becomes far more complicated, with two further play-off ties.

Oman must go all out for a win, and hope for an upset in Sydney, where an 80,000 sell-out crowd will pack ANZ Stadium to cheer on the Socceroos against Iraq.

Oman will have to do it the hard way; without the backing of their fans, who have been nothing short of the fabled "12th man" at home matches.

Two weeks ago, those supporters saw them off in the best possible way, with a 1-0 victory over Iraq at Muscat's Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, achieved without the injured Al Habsi, the recently retired Fawzi Basheer and the star striker Imad Al Hosni.

Tuesday's match promises to be far more taxing. As it happens, the match is the biggest in Jordan's history, as well.

Unlike Oman, Jordan cannot qualify automatically, but a win will see them leapfrog their opponents in the final table.

If Australia win, the Jordan-Oman match is almost a straight play-off for that third spot.

And with Iraq and Qatar out of the running as of last week, and the likes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE departing in the early stages of qualification, the winner of Tuesday's match will carry the last remaining hope of an Arab team qualifying from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Deep down, however, both camps will know that getting that third spot barely gets them any closer to Brazil.

First, they would need to negotiate a two-legged play-off against the third-placed team from Group A, Iran or Uzbekistan. Get through that already arduous task, and they must then take on the fifth-place team in the South American qualifying group over two legs. As things stand, that would be Copa America holders Uruguay – Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, et al.

For now, Oman will hardly be looking that far, and how they must wish Jordan had nothing to play for, going into the last qualifier. But they do, despite a crushing 4-0 defeat to Australia last week.

"I think it's the biggest match in the history of Jordanian football," the Jordan coach Adnan Hamad had said boldly before the match in Melbourne. He could well be saying the same now, with a little less confidence and a lot more pressure.

Which is good news for Oman.

A draw will be enough for third, but Paul le Guen's side probably expect a victory Tuesday. Their fans will certainly demand it, certainly if Australia fail to defeat Iraq.

There is a danger, however, that expectations are not being reined in. After the victory over Iraq, Sayyid Khalid Al Busaidi, chairman of the Oman Football Association, announced a bonus of Dh67,000 for every member of the team, praising Le Guen for transforming "this young team into a great side".

While there is no doubt that team and coach deserve acclaim and the bonus, such talk is surely premature. Le Guen knows well that Tuesday's heroes can turn into goats overnight.

"We are not close to Brazil. We are closer than we were a few months ago, but I think we have a chance at third place," he said. "When you are a coach of Oman, you have to be realistic."

On the other hand, if you are a fan of Oman eagerly awaiting tonight's action, the sky, or Brazil next year, is the limit.

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