AMMAN — Jordan host Singapore on Wednesday as they kick off Group A 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers which also include Syria and Oman.
The match, which is set for 5:00pm at the Amman International Stadium, is vital as the Kingdom aims to reach the Asian finals for the third time and prepares to resume Round 4, Group B World Cup Asian qualifiers next month.
Jordan, who are 95th in the latest FIFA ranking, beat 156th-ranked Indonesia 5-0 in a friendly on Friday ahead of the Asian qualifiers.
Hamad urged players to give their utmost and focus as they prepare for their host ranked 154th.
“We have to come up with the full three points which would set the pace for a strong start in the qualifiers,” he told players.
“ Although we have had a tough period lately, we are a team that has made its mark in the continent and we aim to reach the final for the third time,” Hamad added.
Jordan lost two consecutive World Cup qualifiers and exited Round 1 of the West Asian Championship in late 2012, prompting Hamad to revisit the line-up and include younger players from the U-22 squad.
The Iraqi born coach, who was named among the leading coaches of the world by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics last month, alluded to the team’s declining results in their last two World Cup qualifiers. He underlined that players’ professional contracts aboard were probably beneficial financially rather than technically as they were not getting ample playing time which was affecting their competitive readiness.
The Kingdom is readying to play return leg FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers against Japan on March 26 before playing Australia on June 11 and Oman on June 18.
So far, Jordan drew 1-1 with Iraq, lost 6-0 to Japan, scored a historic 2-1 win over Australia before they lost 2-1 to Oman and 1-0 to Iraq which complicates their chances of reaching the World Cup.
The Jordanian team has joined the continent’s top 10 qualifying teams in the final qualifying Round 4 for the first time since taking part in the qualifiers back in 1985.
In the Asian Cup qualifiers, 25 teams have been divided into five groups of four teams each. The top two teams from each group and the best third-placed team will qualify to the tournament to be held in 2015.
Japan (2011 Asian Cup champions), Australia (host and runner-up), South Korea (third-placed), North Korea (2012 AFC Challenge Cup winner) and the champion of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup will get direct berths in the final competition.
Other teams contesting the qualifiers for the Asian event are:
Group B: Iran, Kuwait, Thailand and Lebanon.
Group C: Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Group D: Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen and Malaysia.
Group E: Uzbekistan, UAE, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
In the past eight times since first taking part in qualifiers in 1972, Jordan reached the final twice. The pinnacle was at the 13th Asian Cup, when they lost to Japan in the quarter-finals and jumped to the best ever FIFA ranking of 37th in August 2004.
The team’s journey to the 2011 finals was shaky. The squad kicked of their Asian Cup qualifying campaign in January 2009 tying Thailand 0-0, and losing 2-1 to Singapore and 1-0 to Iran. They rebounded to beat Iran 1-0 and held Thailand 0-0 before snatching second place in Group E following a 2-1 win over Singapore.
In the finals, Jordan qualified to the quarter-finals where they lost to Uzbekistan 2-1. In the first round, they held eventual champs Japan 1-1, beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 and Syria 2-1.
In the previous 15 Asian Cup finals Japan are record four-time winners, Iran and Saudi Arabia won three times each.