Muscat: The Oman Football Association (OFA) has set three specific targets for new national team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro while handing a one-year contract to the Spaniard.
The Sultanate’s soccer governing body, which announced the former Real Madrid coach’s appointment in a tweet on Thursday night, officially presented Lopez Caro during a press conference at the OFA Headquarters in Seeb Sports Stadium on Friday afternoon.
While introducing Lopez Caro to the local media, the OFA chairman Sayyid Khalid bin Hamad Al Busaidi revealed association’s decision to give Spaniard a one-year contract with three main goals: Oman’s two remaining matches of the ongoing second round of joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers, the next round of the qualifiers if they make it and the Gulf Cup championship to be organised later this year.
But first the OFA chief explained why Lopez Caro, who led Saudi Arabia to runners-up position in Gulf Cup back in 2014, was chosen for the post lying vacant since November last year when the association had shown the exit to Frenchman Paul Le Guen following Oman’s 2-1 away loss to Turkmenistan in their World Cup/Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
“We have received a number of applications for the job. After looking into various options and a thorough process, we have shortlisted five candidates, including two Omani coaches,” Sayyid Khalid said referring to interest shown by two local coaches Hamad Al Azzani and Rasheed Al Jaber, both of whom had stints with the Sultanate’s national teams.
“We looked into Lopez Caro coaching methods and his previous success as the coach. And all that matched our criteria. So the board decided to give him a one year contract,” he added.
Giving further details of thee goals set for the new coach, Sayyid Khalid said: “The first target is the next two games (World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers against Guam and Iran)... which is to win those two games.”
In Group D qualifiers of the 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup, Oman have 11 points against group toppers Iran’s 14. Oman need to win both their remaining matches to clinch the direct berth into the next round of the World Cup qualifiers — first against Guam at home at March 24 and an away outing against Iran on March 29.
“The second is the next round of World Cup qualifiers, if we make it, and the Asian Cup qualifiers,” OFA chief said.
“The third is the Gulf Cup, which will take place at the end of this year,” he said while informing that a decision on whether Kuwait will host it or it will be awarded to some other country will be made next month.
Lopez Caro, meanwhile, said “I am not looking beyond one year”, indicating that his eyes are set on those three goals.
“I am confident we can achieve those goals. But from now on my focus is the next two matches.”
“We need to respect our opponents. But we also need to be confident and work hard to achieve our target,” he added.
The Spaniard also hoped to get the best out of Omani players.
“I am very pleased to get this invitation from the OFA to coach the Omani national team. Now it’s my job to get the best out of the players,” he said.
“I would like to promise the Omani people that I will be hundred percent committed to the job entrusted to me by the association. I am committed to help the Omani team and football improve further,” he added.
Lopez Caro also said he is ‘aware’ of the situation in Omani football.
“I am aware that Omanis (players) are semi professional. But they are quality players and the team is very strong. And they have a good organisation. I know they have a huge potential.
“But the players have to be mentally strong. Discipline and qualify of players is very important. We will be discussing all these points during our meetings with various officials in the coming days.”
The new coach is planning to have two training camps before Oman’s match against Guam.
“The first camp is mainly aimed at meeting the players and knowing them better,” Lopez Caro said.
“In the second, the focus will be on preparing the team for the coming matches.”
The first camp is tentatively scheduled from March 1.
Sayyid Khalid, meanwhile, revealed that the OFA and coach will soon finalise Lopez Caro’s support staff.
“We have discussed at length about forming technical staff, the medical, administrative and other support staff... whether we can continue with the existing staff or bring in new ones from within Oman or outside,” he said.
“We have to decide on the size and the quality of the staff. And we will do that in the coming days.”