Oman's revival in the final round of qualifying for the 2014 Fifa World Cup with a draw against Iraq has strengthened their chances, according to coach Paul Le Guen.
Speaking to reporters soon after Oman earned a 1-1 draw against the 2007 Asian Champions in Doha, the French coach said his team is very much in the competition. "We are still in competition and I congratulate the players for this result because we were under a lot of pressure in the three matches that we have played in the competition," Le Guen said.
Le Guen expects his side to finish "at least third" in the group battle. "We still have a long way to go and hopefully we can finish at least third in the group to battle for a place in the 2014 World Cup," Le Guen pointed out.
Defender Mohammed Sheiba had opened the scoring for Oman with an eighth minute header only for Mahmood to net his seventh goal of the qualifying campaign from the penalty spot eight minutes before half-time in the Qatari capital.
The stalemate is Oman's second consecutive draw in Group B after bouncing back from their 3-0 opening day defeat by Japan with a goalless draw against Australia last week.
Iraq are next in qualifying action against unbeaten Group B leaders Japan on September 11, while Oman have to wait until October 16 to entertain Jordan after the pair joined Australia on two points - with the trio already five points adrift of 2011 AFC Asian Cup winners Japan.
"I am happy that we got a point from such a hard away game," he added.
Meanwhile, Socceroos captain Lucas Neill is certain Australia will be at the 2014 World Cup finals despite taking just two points from their first two matches in the fourth and final round of Asian qualifying. Australia, who were held to a goalless draw in Oman last on Friday, came from behind to draw 1 - 1 with fellow Asian zone powerhouse Japan in Brisbane on Tuesday in an entertaining match studded with bizarre refereeing decisions.
Neill was encouraged by his team's response to losing Mark Milligan to a second yellow card in the 56th minute and predicted that the Socceroos and Blue Samurai would finish in the top two positions in Group B and qualify for Brazil. "If Japan keep beating their opposition and we keep beating ours, then we'll both be on our way to Brazil," he told reporters yesterday.
Meanwhile, Australia coach Holger Osieck voiced disbelief at a "very, very dubious" sending-off as the spotlight again fell on refereeing standards in Asia's World Cup qualifiers. Osieck was scathing about Saudi official Khalil Al Ghamdi's dismissal of Mark Milligan, for a second yellow card, which proved a key moment in on Tuesday's thrilling 1-1 draw with Japan. "I can't blame him at all," Osieck said of Milligan, who was ruled to have brought down Japan's Atsuto Uchida in the 55th minute at Brisbane Stadium.
"That was a very, very dubious call from the referee. It was a cross inside and he clearly went to the ball and didn't even touch him.
"How could he give a red card for that It was beyond my comprehension."
Japan's Yuzo Kurihara scored the opening goal 10 minutes later before Luke Wilkshire equalised from the penalty spot, following Uchida's slight tug on striker Alex Brosque.
And Japan also had cause to grumble when Al Ghamdi handed goal-scorer Kurihara a debatable second yellow, sending him off late in the game. He later blew the final whistle as Keisuke Honda lined up a free kick-sparking consternation the visitors' bench.
The latest controversy follows a complaint by Fifa vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan about refereeing in Asia's final qualifying phase for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which kicked off last week.
"It is certainly a highly important matter worth addressing with my colleagues on the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) executive committee," he said in a statement.
"We are in need of a thorough assessment of our refereeing system as an integral part of competitions in Asia."
Last week, Uzbekistan complained they were robbed of a goal in the 1-0 loss to Iran when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura failed to spot the ball crossing the line-a claim backed up by TV replays. Coach Vadim Abramov was sacked after the defeat.