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Japan is clear favourite, says Oman coach

KOCHI, MARCH 29. Despite being miles ahead of India in the FIFA world rankings, Oman's target this year is crystal clear. The team's coach, Czech Milan Macala, is aware of the ground realities.

"Our main target is the AFC Asian Cup in China (this July). The Olympic and World Cup qualifiers are part of the preparation for the Asian Cup," said Macala, who landed in Kochi with the Oman team on Monday. Oman is in a strong Group `D' in the Asian Cup with Japan, Iran and Thailand.

"As far as the World Cup qualifiers are concerned, both Oman and India are at the same level. Japan is the best in our group. It's an experienced and professional side, and the clear favourite," said Macala. Oman (world ranking 68) plays India (140) in the World Cup Asia Zone qualifier here on March 31.

"We played a good game against Japan in the World Cup qualifiers but made some small mistakes in the last 30 seconds and lost the match 0-1," said Macala.

Oman is a young side with an average age of 20 and the team is virtually the same side which figures in the Olympic qualifiers. "Ninety per cent of the boys in the team here also play the Olympic qualifiers," said the Czech.

Oman, which drew 1-1 with Saudi Arabia last week in the qualifiers, is being led by defender Mohammed Rabia Al Noobi. — Our Sports Reporter

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