12 October 2014 21:13
A high-scoring affair could well be in the offing when Oman test themselves against Luis Suarez and Uruguay on Monday.
Suarez – permitted to play for his country in friendlies after his four-month ban from “all football-related activity” was altered to exclude friendlies by the Court of Arbitration for Sport – had a hand in Uruguay’s goal on Friday as the South American side were held to a 1-1 draw by Saudi Arabia in the Barcelona man’s return to international action.
The ex-Liverpool player’s volley crashed off the left-hand post and was turned into the net by Saudi Arabia defender Hassan Muath Fallatah.
Oscar Tabarez’s men could not hold on to their lead despite creating a number of chances in Jeddah as the 67-year-old coach was unable to celebrate penning a new four-year contract last week with a win.
But the visitors should head to Muscat confident of a comfortable victory versus an Oman side whose defence was suspect in their 4-3 home loss to World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica on Friday.
Errors at the back from Oman were a constant in a thrilling encounter with the Central American side, although coach Paul Le Guen laid much of the blame on captain and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Al-Habsi has played just one game for club side Wigan Athletic this season, serving as deputy to first-choice shot stopper Scott Carson, and Le Guen believes the 32-year-old’s lack of first-team football may have been the reason for his poor display.
“I should have liked Ali to be in the starting XI with Wigan every weekend because when you are out of the pitch it’s always a blow,” Le Guen said after the game.
“The way for a player to be at the right level is to play and play. When you are not in the starting XI maybe you lose your rhythm.
“I rely on Ali he is my captain and I want to help him. I want him to be the boss of the defence. We will have a chat together. I want to find a solution.”
However, Tabarez’s side – having conceded to a Saudi Arabia side ranked 75 places below them by FIFA – may need to be wary of an attack that was able to consistently break down a Costa Rica outfit that let in just two goals and beat Uruguay on their run to the last eight in Brazil.
That attacking performance will have offered plenty of encouragement to Le Guen’s team, for whom this friendly should give a good indicator of their quality ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup, a tournament in which Oman have been placed in a tough group alongside Australia, South Korea and Kuwait.