Doubt may surround the future of Kuwait coach Rodion Gacanin, but the Croatian has no time to worry. Instead, he must plot Syria's downfall as he bids to revive the Blues' 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualification chances.
Currently bottom of Group 5 in the Asian preliminaries, following a 2-0 defeat by United Arab Emirates and a 2-2 draw at home to Iran in March, the Syrians need to win in Damascus to keep alive their hopes of reaching a second FIFA World Cup; their first appearance coming at Spain 1982.
And while the name of former Barcelona and Real Madrid coach Radomir Antic has been touted as a possible successor to Gacanin, the current occupant continues to get on with the task in hand. Although Gacanin excluded six veterans, namely Hamad Al Enazy, Jarrah Al Attigi, Khalid Al Shammary, Ali Muqaiseed, Ahmad Al Fadhli and Shiha Kankouni, from his squad after taking charge in December, he has recalled five of them.
He also stood by goalkeeper Khaled Al Fadly, who was blamed by the fans and the media for conceding two early goals against Iran. "Fadly was partially responsible but I still consider him my first choice goalkeeper," he said. "The best goalkeepers in the world make mistakes and we should all realise that."
Despite Gacanin's persistence on calling Al Fadly for the next game, the country's football officials objected and the matter was only resolved when Al Fadly himself announced that he will not travel with the team to Syria to end the conflict between the coach and his superiors. "I am not ready to play for Kuwait now. I don't think it is a good time for me to appear for the national team," said the shot-stopper.
It was Gacanin himself, however, who made the decision to drop star striker Badr El Metaw from his party due to disciplinary reasons, handing Mashary El Azmy ia maiden call-up in his place. "I am excited about being called for the national team and I hope to fulfill our fans' ambitions because I sincerely believe we still have a chance to progress from this group," said the Kazma player.
And although he will be unable to depend on Al Arabi players, who have club commitments, Gacanin remains optimistic. "We have two friendlies against Qatar and Saudi Arabia and I will rely on these games heavily to prepare my team for Syria. I think we will be well prepared before we arrive in Damascus," he concluded.