Football: Out to vanquish the Lions

Only 19, but Oman debutant Ali Busaidi (above) has impressed coach Paul Le Guen during training.

SINGAPORE - He reached out his left foot to intercept a pass in the middle of the park, then instantly launched an attack with his right.

With a single move, the flow of Oman's training match was turned on its head, but the slightly built Ali Busaidi, was not quite done.

He blazed up the pitch at the Singapore Sports School, picked up a return pass and effortlessly sent a crisp shot into the bottom corner of the goal.

Busaidi was easily the standout player at the first training session for Paul Le Guen and his charges on Singapore shores on Friday, ahead of next Wednesday's Group A Asian Cup qualifier at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange is eyeing a win in his first competitive match with the Lions, but his task is perhaps put in perspective, when Busaidi is not even assured of a spot in the Oman first 11.

Busaidi is only 19, and this is his first call-up to the senior national team.

"This is my first camp with the national team, and it is my hope to be one of the 11 players starting the game," said the attacking midfielder, who dreams of playing for Manchester United.

The youngster sent a warning to Singapore.

He said: "I'm serious on the field, so I can earn a chance, and if I get it, I won't let it go easily."

Le Guen was coy over whether the hungry youngster would start against the Lions.

"I was told that he was one of the best players in the national Olympic team, and that's why I selected him," Le Guen told The New Paper "And training session after training session, he confirms that he's a gifted player."

When asked if the young livewire would start in the Omani side, the former Lyon coach said: "Why not? I am open-minded and watch training sessions closely.

"But when a young player arrives, he needs to be humble, stay at his place, work hard and improve."

It is the same down-to-earth attitude with which Le Guen, who led Cameroon in the 2010 World Cup Finals, is approaching the clash against Singapore.

"Singapore are a dynamic team... they have a collective way of playing football. They've got a new coach, with a new generation of players, and it's always difficult to play against teams like that," said the 49-year-old.

Oman, 95th in the Fifa world rankings, are well ahead of the Lions, who are No. 162.

They inflicted the biggest defeat of former Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic's era - a 7-0 thumping in 2004.

But Le Guen does not care about rankings or previous results.

He said: "I am confident (of winning), but not over-confident - that's a trap. I've just told the players this: To stay focused throughout the match, and stay humble."

Singapore, who lost 4-0 to Jordan in their first qualifier in February, are counting on home support to pull off a shock win and reassert themselves in the group.

Instead of scoffing, Le Guen responded with graciousness.

"I respect that. I don't know Stange, but I heard that he was a former Oman coach. If I were the coach of Singapore, I'd say the same thing," he said.

"I'm respectful of that, but I think we can win."

Oman are missing the likes of experienced forwards Hassan Hosni and Emad Al-Hosni, Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and Ahmad Mubarak. While Le Guen calls it a "big blow", he has 18-year-old Ali Nahar, and, of course, the effervescent Busaidi to call upon.


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