KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - French coach Bruno Metsu is confident newly-crowned Gulf Cup champions United Arab Emirates can spring a surprise in the Asian Cup finals but he knows they have a tough fight on their hands.
Metsu, 53, made history by leading his team to a first-ever Gulf Cup triumph in January, when they beat Oman 1-0 in the final on home turf in Abu Dhabi.
But he said the Asian Cup that kicks off next month would be more challenging since some players were still recovering from injury while others were young and inexperienced.
"There are four to five young players in the team. Seven players are injured," he told reporters here where they are acclimatising.
Metsu said playing host Vietnam in their opening match in Hanoi on July 8 and then defending champions Japan, followed by Qatar, would be an uphill battle.
"This is a tough tournament. The first game is against Vietnam who will have home ground advantage. Then we play Japan and Qatar. All the games are difficult," he said.
The tournament is jointly hosted by Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.
Still, Metsu said he was optimistic about his team's chances.
"In football everything is possible," he said.
The long-haired Frenchman is regarded as a coach who can deliver the impossible.
He led Senegal to its first-ever World Cup finals in 2002 when they surprised everybody by beating France 1-0 in the opening game and went on to make the quarter-finals.
The UAE team warm-up with a friendly against Malaysia, the lowest-ranked team in the Asian Cup, on Thursday before travelling to neighbouring Singapore to play triple Asian Cup champions Saudi Arabia on June 24, and North Korea on July 1.
Metsu said the players were putting in a lot of hard work.
"Every day is work, work, work and learn for the players," he said, adding that their ultimate goal was to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"The first task was winning the Gulf Cup. The second is qualifying for the World Cup," he said, adding the Asian Cup was crucial to allow him to evaluate the players and plan training programmes.
"It also will help boost confidence among the (new) players," he said.
The Asian Cup finals kick off on July 7 in Bangkok with the final on July 29 in Jakarta.
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