Sousa and his boys aim to make use of ‘best moment’
December 07 2019 11:21 PM
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard (left) listens to a question during a press conference on the eve of
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard (left) listens to a question during a press conference on the eve of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup final against Bahrain in Doha. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil

By Yash Mudgal/ Doha

Bahrain coach Helio Sousa and his team are on the verge of history in the Arabian Gulf Cup, the oldest tournament in the region.
And “the best moment” has put the “right pressure” on him and his boys.
Four-time finalists Bahrain will meet former champions Saudi Arabia in the final at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium today with an eye on their maiden title.
The victory would also mean that Sousa will be the first Portuguese coach to win the Cup.
“To be in the final is the best moment for us. Bahrainis have a chance to realise their dream of winning the prestigious Gulf Cup for which they have waited for almost 50 years,” Sousa said yesterday.
Bahrain, who started as the dark horse, reached the final of the tournament defeating three-time champions Iraq on penalties in the semi-finals. Sousa had made as many as 11 changes from their starting line-up for their 4-2 win over 10-time champions Kuwait at the group stage.
Sousa has been impressive helping Bahrain win the 2019 WAFF Championship in Iraq, along with a strong start to qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The Portuguese, who was hired by Bahrain after the departure of Miroslav Soukup before the knockout phases of the AFC Asian Cup, said he is not feeling any pressure for the final.
“What pressure? If it is any, it’s the best pressure you can have. This is obviously something every coach and team would want to have. And I am sure all my players are motivated to win,” the coach said, who has coached the Portugal U-19 national team in the past and helped them win the UEFA European U-19 Championship in 2018.
Saudi Arabia, who defeated Bahrain 2-0 in the group stage and Qatar in the other semis, will start as the favourites in the final, but currently 101st ranked Bahrain have already shown that they have little regard for such labels.
“They all have better rankings than us, but we played some good football and showed our calibre in the tournament,” the 50-year-old coach said.
“It will be a tough task but we are ready for it. To reach the final is our best performance. But we want to win it. We started the preparations of the Gulf Cup just after the World Cup qualification rounds and players have given everything for it. They have stayed away from their families for a long period of time and this is the time for them to get rewards,” he said.
Sousa also lauded training facilities provide by hosts Qatar.
“We have had the best training facilities in Doha during our stay. We are overwhelmed here,” he said.
Meanwhile Saudi coach Herve Renard hopes to be the third Frenchman to win the title after fellow countrymen Bruno Metsu and Claude Leroy won with the UAE and Oman respectively. The other three-time winning coach is late Iraqi Emmanuel Daoud. Serbian Ljubicia Prucic and Czech Milan Machala have won the title twice each, both with Kuwait.
Now the moot question is will Bahrain take the final step?

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