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DOHA // Bruno Metsu, Qatar's French coach, has questioned the mental stamina of Gulf teams after four of the five at the Asian Cup lost their opening matches.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain all crashed to defeat in a tournament being played barely a month after the Gulf Cup. The UAE salvaged some pride for the region, with a 0-0 draw against North Korea yesterday before Iran beat neighbourds Iraq 2-1 last night.
Metsu, who has worked in the region since 2002 when he was coach of Al Ain for two years and then as coach of the UAE national side from 2006 to 2008, said it was tough playing two big tournaments in such a short space of time.
"We see that the Gulf teams all lost their first matches, and we are talking about technique and physical qualities. But what we haven't talked about is mental stamina," he said before yesterday's matches.
"It's difficult to play two big tournaments in two months and I think that you have to ask, are the players capable of withstanding the mental pressure of playing in two competitions back to back?
"It's a mental thing, not about morale. It's difficult for young players to come back and play in two big tournaments."
Qatar lost 2-0 to Uzbekistan in their opener while Saudi Arabia were stunned 2-1 by Syria, a defeat that cost Jose Peseiro, their coach, his job. Bahrain went down 2-1 to Asian giants Japan while Kuwait, the Gulf Cup champions, were 2-0 losers against China.
Metsu said the Asian Cup and Gulf Cup were not comparable, with different types of opponents.
"You can't compare the Asian Cup and the Gulf Cup. They are two completely different championships," he said ahead of Qatar's Group A clash with China.
"But when you compare the Gulf teams to the non-Gulf teams, you see that Jordan and Syria have played to their potential and played good matches.
"They played with more aggression and were more fresh mentally. They were much fresher than the Gulf teams such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar."
Meanwhile, Metsu has admitted it is imperative his team win their clash with China to keep the reputation of the 2022 World Cup hosts intact.
"Today we still have a trump card to play, but if we lose we won't have any cards left.The China team is an excellent team, very well organised and not easy to unsettle. We will use every tool we have to win the match."
8.15pm, Abu Dhabi Sports