The giants of Asian football are marching along nicely at the 2019 Asian Cup – Iran, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are all on course to feature in the knockouts.
Hosts the UAE, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Iraq are all in the chasing pack, hoping to cause an upset. One name that is probably being overlooked by most though – and dangerously so – is that of Jordan.
It’s to be expected. According to FIFA, they are the joint sixth-lowest ranked nation of the 24 competing in the Emirates this month (109th alongside North Korea), but that does not tell the full story of Jordanian progression on the international stage in recent years.
They have only lost six times since the start of 2017, a run that has taken in 29 games. Since losing their opening game of 2018 – a 2-1 defeat to Finland – disappointment has been tasted only four times in the following 16 games. And one of those was a tight 2-1 reversal at the hands of World Cup finalists Croatia in October.
Eye-catching results during this impressive run have included a 3-2 defeat of Denmark, who reached the round of 16 in Russia, a 1-1 draw with Gulf heavyweights Saudi, plus toppling reigning champions Australia in their Asian Cup opener.
Their final game of the group, against arguably its weakest occupant, was actually Jordan’s most disappointing result and performance.
They dominated the first 45 minutes and would have gone in at half-time wondering how they had not pierced the Palestine goal-line. They were second best in the second half and ultimately will be pleased with a point.
After their momentous victory against the Socceroos and the comprehensive 2-0 victory against Syria – who advanced to a play-off with the Aussies in the penultimate round of Asian qualifying for last summer’s World Cup – to not secure maximum points on their path of progress will have irked head coach Vital Borkelmans.
But the vitally important fact here is that progress has been made, and now Jordan have the chance to make a third quarter-final appearance in their last four Asian Cup appearances.
The elite will view them as knockout stage fodder to their folly. They are a rising force and anyone underestimating Jordan could well receive a jolt of embarrassment.
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