Ahead of Aust clash, Oman's striker quits

March 24, 2013
By Doug Conway

Oman's top player Fawzi Bashir will miss the World Cup qualifier against Australia after quitting the national team in a bust-up with coach Paul Le Guen.

The 28-year-old former captain was apparently incensed at being used as a substitute in Oman's last qualifier against Japan last November, and recently walked out in protest.

The row boosts Australia's chances of a badly-needed victory on home soil at Sydney's Olympic stadium on Tuesday night.

It robs Oman of a midfield star former coach Claude Le Roy, now in charge of Congo, has compared with African greats George Weah and Samuel Eto'o.

"It was his decision and I have to respect it," Le Guen told reporters on the eve of the Sydney showdown.

"When a massive player becomes a substitute, because I decided it, it's quite difficult to maintain that situation long-term.

"He's proud and it's difficult for him to accept. I fully understand that."

Le Guen said he had not spoken to Bashir since he quit, but would try to arrange a chat to find out why exactly he decided to retire from the national team.

Bashir, who plays his club football with UAE outfit Ajman, has scored 23 goals in 98 international appearances.

Suspension ruled him out of the scoreless draw against Australia in Muscat last year, meaning the Socceroos will not have to face him in their 2014 World Cup campaign.

Apart from Bashir's absence, Le Guen's biggest problem on Tuesday will be how to contain Australia's height and aerial supremacy, particularly the threat posed by Tim Cahill.

"I know he is good in the air and he likes fighting," Le Guen said.

"I have shown (my players) video, but I don't know if that will be enough."

The French-born coach was at pains to paint Oman as underdogs.

"Once again they will be favourite," he said. "We will be outsider but we will try our best. We will fight.

"They are supposed to qualify but we want to create a surprise. Why not?"

Oman can count themselves unlucky to have lost 2-1 to runaway group leaders Japan last November, falling at home to a 92nd minute goal.

Le Guen said Oman had proved its potential at home. "Now the time has come to prove it away."