IT proved to be an agonising 90 minutes for Latics goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi as his Oman side were sunk 3-0 by Japan yesterday morning.
That meant Oman’s third World Cup group stage bid for Brazil 2014 got off to the worst possible start, with games to come against Australia next, Iraq and Jordan in the five-country round-robin series.
Despite skippering the Oman side, Al Habsi – who made a string of fine saves once again – couldn’t keep out goals from Keisuke Honda, Ryoichi Maeda and Shinji Okazaki in the huge Saitama Stadium.
It’s now back home to Muscat for Ali and Oman as Australia – Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and all – visit on June 8, before a fortnight triple-header is completed with a trip to Doha to face Iraq on June 12.
Meanwhile, back in England, it was being reported yesterday that talks between Swansea City and Latics’ assistant boss Graeme Jones had broken down.
The Swans were given permission to speak to Jones over the managerial vacancy at the Liberty Stadium following Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Liverpool.
Bookmakers on Thursday afternoon suspended betting on Jones making a return to the club where he spent two years between 2007 and 2009 as No 2 to Roberto Martinez, before following the Spaniard to Wigan.
The 42-year-old former Wigan and Doncaster striker was targeted by Swansea in 2010, before Rodgers was eventually appointed.
Swans chief Huw Jenkins would not comment directly on Jones’ position over the weekend, instead maintaining simply that the club would continue to assess their options in terms of finding the man to fill Rodgers’ shoes after he quit for Anfield last week. “We are weighing up our options over the next few days and we will take it from there,” a relaxed Jenkins said.
With Swansea believed to have hoped to have made a quick appointment following the early identification of Jones as a top target, Jenkins will now return to the short-list of names first drawn up in a series of ‘succession planning’ meetings held when Rodgers was linked with Tottenham.