Oman coach Paul Le Guen arrived at the Asian Cup hoping his side could upset the odds against two of the region’s strongest sides but in reality, the Frenchman could do little to prevent his team from crashing out of the tournament early.
Le Guen is the longest serving coach at the Asian Cup and after seeing Oman fall at the group stage for the third time in as many attempts, he could be justified in feeling he has taken the side as far as he could since taking over in June 2011.
The 50-year-old has brought plenty of stability to a limited squad in a part of the world where many coaches last less than year but the latest failed Asian Cup campaign laid bare just how much work still needs to be done to make Oman competitive.
Drawn in the toughest group in the tournament, Oman appeared listless in their 1-0 defeat to South Korea on Saturday before they were blown away by Australia three days later, overwhelmed and outclassed in a 4-0 drubbing against the rampant hosts.
Le Guen insisted Saturday’s dead rubber against Kuwait, who have also been eliminated, has become a “matter of pride” but was also realistic in his assessment of the gulf in class between the sides following the Australia loss.
“We need to become more professional on and off the pitch,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“The players have to experience the life of a professional. If you’re playing a match three days after facing the Korea Republic, you need to be prepared,” he added.
“There is a gap between us and Australia. The only way to bridge that gap is to be humble and work hard.
“They were able to run more than us, they were able to jump higher than us, but it’s not a huge surprise.
“Of course, you are hopeful, but if you are objective and reasonable... 18 players of Australia from the 23-player group play internationally, and only one of our players (Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi).
“And even the players playing in Australia, the league here is getting better and better. So it is difficult to compare, but it is no excuse.”
Le Guen, who was linked with the Australia job in 2010, was full of praise for the rebuilding work Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou has conducted on an aging side since taking over in late 2013 despite a disappointing World Cup campaign last year.
“It’s a good balanced team,” Le Guen added.
“It was obvious during the World Cup, even if they didn’t get the results they expected, the games were quite good and they have kept the momentum and I think they are on the right way.”
Magnanimous in defeat and forward-thinking, Le Guen knows he too will need to conduct a similar rebuilding job with Oman should he stay on after the Asian Cup with World Cup qualifiers set to kick off in June.SHOW MORE