Unfancied Jordan on brink of last eight
Doha: Unfancied Jordan were on the brink of the Asian Cup knockout stages on Friday after they held off regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia 1-0, knocking the three-times champions out of the tournament.
Jordan need just a draw in their final Group B game against Syria on Monday to make it through to the last eight, for what would be a major achievement for the kingdom of 6.5 million people.
Adnan Hamed`s men are proving to be one of the surprise-packages of the tournament so far. They were beating Japan, one of the favourites, until they conceded an injury-time equaliser to draw 1-1 in their opening game.
Then they profited from a glaring blunder by Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah yesterday to squeeze past the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia coach Nasser Al Johar, whose team had the lion`s share of possession but created few clear-cut chances, said Jordan had been lucky.
But Hamed, an Iraqi who has fostered a defensive side that plays on the break, disagreed.
"To win against Saudi Arabia is a big achievement and in football there are things that happen and that you can`t control," he said.
"We played with good tactical discipline and Saudi Arabia didn`t have a lot of scoring chances. We could have scored another goal from the quick counter attacks that we had and I believe that our team deserved to win."
The experienced Hamed said his game plan was to hold the Saudis level in the first-half and sneak a goal in the second. But it didn`t quite turn out like that, as Baha Abdelrahman`s cross crept in three minutes before half-time.
Keeper Waleed totally misjudged the flight of the ball and could only look back as it curled into the top corner.
The Jordan team ran to their supporters at the end of the game at the Al-Rayyan Stadium as players and fans wildly celebrated the upset. The players were even chanting on the team bus as they pulled away from the ground.
But Hamed cautioned against complacency.
"I want to thank the players for the great game they showed despite being under big pressure," he said.
"But we still have a lot of work to do, although our ambitions are big now and hopefully we can carry on in the tournament as far as possible."
Striker Odai Al Saify, who was always a willing outlet to relieve pressure on the Jordan defence, said his side had learnt from conceding the late leveller against Japan.
"It was a disappointing result because we conceded the equaliser against them very late in the game and lost two points," he said.
"Against Saudi Arabia, the game was very important for Jordan. All of our players were very determined to produce something special as we really wanted to take the three points to go to the next round."