HANOI (AFP) - United Arab Emirates coach Bruno Metsu fears that bad refereeing has doomed the Gulf Cup champions to a fate similar to that of football giants Italy and Spain at the World Cup in 2002.
"It is important in football that small mistakes can change the game. In our game, I think the referee changed the game," the Frenchman said ahead of the UAE's must-win Asian Cup match against champions Japan here on Friday.
He is still fuming that their 2-0 defeat by unfancied co-hosts Vietnam in their group B opener was partly due to Lebanese referee Talaat Najim's failure to award his side at least two penalties.
Metsu, who led Senegal to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, said he saw the same referee officiating in a 1-1 draw between powerhouses Saudi Arabia and South Korea in Jakarta on Wednesday.
"I remembered the 2002 World Cup when South Korea played at home against Spain and Italy and the referee was very bad also," he said.
"A good team may also play against the referee. It was too much for us to play against Vietnam, against the fans and against the referee."
In 2002, South Korea were roared on by home fans to beat Italy in the World Cup last-16 round and Spain in the quarter-finals amid controversy over dubious refereeing decisions against the visitors.
In one incident, AC Roma superstar Francesco Totti was shown a second yellow card by referee Byron Moreno for an alleged dive with video replays suggesting it was a poor decision.
"I must caution the players before the match that the referee might be against you," said Metsu.
He has not been alone in complaining about the officials.
Qatar coach Dzemaludin Musovic was sent off by Australian Matthew Breeze when he loudly protested a red card given to former Manchester City winger Hussain Yaser in their 1-1 draw on Monday.
Musovic was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Asian Football Confederation disciplinary committee on Thursday, a day ahead of Qatar's match against Vietnam.
The Bosnian coach blamed Breeze for penalising Yaser for no reason.
Metsu, who has come under heavy fire for the loss against Vietnam, added that it was a learning experience for his young squad.
"It's a very good tournament and our team have a very good future. It's a very good first step," he said, adding that "football is strange".
"When the team win, it's the players (who are responsible.) When the team lose, it's the coach."
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