x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Metsu geared up for Saudi test

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are headed for an intriguing showdown tonight in Group B.

The Qatar coach Bruno Metsu aims to be the first coach to win back-to-back Gulf Cup titles with two different teams.
The Qatar coach Bruno Metsu aims to be the first coach to win back-to-back Gulf Cup titles with two different teams.

MUSCAT // Qatar and Saudi Arabia are headed for an intriguing showdown tonight in Group B. Both teams are still in the running for a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - and their encounter could provide the fireworks of the night. Bruno Metsu, who led the UAE to their historic Gulf Cup triumph two years ago, is attempting to become the first coach to win back-to-back titles leading two different teams.

The Frenchman was given a rude welcome to his job as the Qatar coach. His side suffered two heavy defeats in the 2010 World Cup qualifier in his first two games in charge, Australia drubbing them 4-0 and Japan running out 3-0 victors. But Metsu has got them playing well in their warm-up friendlies, particularly the last game, in which they were impressive 5-2 winners with Libya. And he would like to see a similar performance against the Saudis tonight to launch Qatar's campaign for a third Gulf Cup.

Qatar have a host of foreigners in the line-up and the Asian Player of the Year nominee Sebastian Soria stands out. The striker could be the danger man. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have had their problems and their coach Nasser al Johar, who has been in and out of the job, wants to leave on a high after the Saudi Federation indicated he would quit at the end of the Gulf Cup. The Saudis are the strongest team in the competition, on paper, with a Fifa ranking of 48, yet they have only won the Gulf Cup three times, the last two back-to-back in 2002 and 2004.

Al Johar's men haven't been as impressive as their tonight's opponents, held to a 1-1 draw by Syria in the lead up to the competition but his team, traditionally better tonight. apassella@thenational.ae