Muscat: Disappointed after a 2-1 loss to Asia champions Japan, Oman coach Paul Le Guen conceded the defeat but strongly defended his players and his tactics in front of a packed audience at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher.
When Ahmed 'Kanu' Mubarak's 77th minute free-kick equalised the score the crowd was happily rejoicing the goal but Shinji Okazaki scored a late winner to push Oman to fourth place in Group B making things difficult for the Red Warriors.
However, Le Guen said his side still have a 'good chance' to win tickets to Brazil. "Not all is lost yet. We still have a fair chance to qualify," a visibly upset Le Guen said soon after the match.
"We still have three more games to play and the standings look still wide open and I am happy with the way we are progressing," he noted.
Speaking about his team's last-minute disarray, Le Guen said: "I am disappointed with the results but I am proud of my boys for the way they played today. Look, it's never easy to predict any match before the final whistle and it was not in our hands."
Injury to his key star striker Ismail Al Ajmi was a big blow for Le Guen but . "It was a huge blow. And at the same time we were playing without Saad Suhail and Mohammed Sheeba so it was extremely difficult for us but the young players have taken the responsibility which is a good thing looking at this team's future," he said.
When asked if he is depending heavily on the young blood, Le Guen said he is aiming for a balanced squad. "On some situations such as this when few of your top players are injured we have to give chances to the youngsters. If I have many fit players in the squad, I will have to play the best player on the pitch be it old or new," he said.
The Frenchman praised his young players for 'an excellent match' against the Blue Samurai. "Japan is the best team in Asia and my boys have done an excellent job against them. I am proud of them," he said.
Le Guen thanked the crowd who had come and filled the stadium in full hours before the start of the match. "I would like to thank them for coming and supporting. This has been a great match but I am sorry that we could not win the match but I am sure this is a team that can challenge the best and you should be proud of that," he added.
Meanwhile, heaping praise on Oman, Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni admitted his team were made to sweat for victory. "We are happy to win here because Oman at home is a very strong team and they proved that once again. They really played well in the second half. Though they missed few chances, they gave us a hard time on the field," he said.
Le Guen and his boys will now fly to Kuwait for the West Asian Football Federation Championship which will be held from December 8 to 20.