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Oman would be difficult ro beat: Coach Le Roy.

Byline: Ashok purohit

As the world prepares to usher in 2009, one event that will bind the whole of the sultanate Au from the northern tip of Musandam to the southern tip of Dhofar and from the western borders of Buraimi to the eastern island of Masirah Au for the next two weeks from January 4 will be the 19th edition of the Gulf Cup.

And never have the expectations of the hundreds of thousands of Omanis been greater than this time with Oman as the host.

For the last two successive finals, Oman has been on the losing side and the nation hopes that the team will be third time lucky. The national teamAAEs preparations under coach Claude Le Roy have been ideal and the Frenchman who has tasted glory with some of the top African teams like Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana, has been with the team for only five months.

As he prepares for the biggest test with the Oman team, the man with the golden locks is eyeing nothing but glory. In an exclusive chat with TheWeek, the Frenchman exuded confidence as he talked about the teamAAEs preparations and the mood in his camp.

Le Roy kicked off by saying, AoIt will be very difficult for the other teams to beat us. We are high on confidence after a perfect build-up for the Gulf Cup.Ao The coach, who was drafted in by the Oman Football Association (OFA) in July, has led the team to three victories on the trot ahead of the Gulf Cup, a sporting extravaganza where the stakes are much higher than the millions on offer.

The tournament, which will witness eight teams vie for the cup, has undergone many upheavals since its birth in 1970. The coach, who had set his goal of winning eight successive matches, since the final build-up began for his side in December, was all praise for his wards after the hat-trick of wins.

AoIt is an achievement. It is not easy when you play strong sides from Asia (China), Latin America (Ecuador) and Africa (Senegal) and win against all three; it underlines the teamAAEs character and class. We still have five games left till January 17 (the final) and we hope to achieve the goal,Ao he said.

AoI know my players have the potential. The teamAAEs spirit is amazing. We have a strong will to win the cup,Ao he added.

Known for being a strict disciplinarian, Le Roy admitted that expectations were sky-high after two successive runner-up finishes in 2004 (Doha) and 2007 (Abu Dhabi).

AoIt is not going to be easy but then the only solution is to win the cup this time. The players are certainly hungrier and the key parameters for a winning team Au technical, tactical, physical and psychological proficiency Au have been met during our recent victories.

AoThere is harmony among the team though my strict discipline was not easy to adhere to by the senior players initially. But now it seems easy and we are enjoying on and off the field, which is important,Ao he said.

AoI have to admit that the biggest danger is the high expectations of the fans. They want the title as much as the players. But OFA has done its bit to avoid any useless pressure on the players and it has helped the team. After the three recent wins, we hope to keep the winning momentum going,Ao Le Roy said.

The team also received a big boost with the confirmation of the news that OmanAAEs only professional player in Europe and the best goalkeeper at the last two Gulf Cups, Ali al Habsi, will be available.

AoIt is a huge advantage. AliAAEs dominating presence under the bar means 30 per cent of the team and we are obviously happy and relieved,Ao Le Roy said.

Since he took over in July this year, Le RoyAAEs team has played eight friendly games and barring the sole defeat against Paraguay, has won six and drawn with Morocco.

The coach refused to underestimate any of his opponents. AoI respect all our rivals and we have a tough group comprising Kuwait, Bahrain and Asian champions Iraq. But I think Saudi Arabia is the best side in the region,Ao he said.

Le Roy also dismissed the notion that OmanAAEs previous coach Milan Macala of the Czech Republic, who is now BahrainAAEs coach, will have any distinct advantage against his former side. Asked if he feared an early axe to fall on him if the team did not succeed, the coach said, AoWe are professionals. What I would like is for the team to play to its potential and give a good show. When you play well you win. It happens most of the time. It is like when you respect football, football respects you.Ao

AoI am of the firm opinion that I have a beautiful job to prepare a team for the future. Our efforts should be to guide the side to the 2014 World Cup. Oman has the potential to reach the World Cup,Ao he said. Having celebrated Christmas with both his daughters Au Gaelle and Sev Au who arrived from France recently, the coach hopes to have another celebration soon.

With his director daughter Gaelle scheduled to shoot a film on the Gulf Cup, Le Roy hopes to provide the best shot Au Oman players holding aloft the 19th Gulf Cup, come January 17.

Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Jan 4, 2009
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