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Jordan plays Saudi Arabia in semis

By Aline Bannayan - Jan 22,2014 - Last updated at Jan 22,2014

AMMAN — The national U-22 football team plays Saudi Arabia on Thursday in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-22 Championship currently under way in Muscat, Oman.

Jordan beat the UAE 1-0 in the quarter-finals continuing an undefeated string of matches at the event. In Round 1, Jordan topped Group A after beating Myanmar 6-1, holding South Korea 1-1 and beating hosts Oman 1-0.

South Korea beat Syria 2-1 to move to the other semi against Iraq, who ousted Japan 1-0.

Jordan played its match against Oman without captain Hamzeh Dardour, who was suspended by the AFC for one match following an altercation with the linesman after the Myanmar match.

The Kingdom’s performance has impressed observers despite the absence from latest friendlies of seven key players who were on national team duty at the 8th West Asian Championship. The line-up was completed in the final two days ahead of the inaugural U-22 tournament after Jordan played two friendlies, losing 2-1 to China and tying the UAE 1-1.

FIFA Vice President for Asia and Jordan Football Association (JFA) President HRH Prince Ali expressed his confidence and pride in the team at the inaugural event in Oman.

A statement from the prince’s office said: “What the U-22 has achieved demonstrates Jordanian football is on the right track. We have reached the semis playing against strong Asian sides. We have had a tough journey and the team has been exemplary in all matches.”

The prince lauded the hard work of the coaches and said achievements so far were a combined effort from all concerned. “We are now in the lead and cannot go back. We can only improve further.”

Prince Ali again underlined appreciation to the vision of the late technical director of the JFA Mahmoud Johary, who had set a plan for national age group divisions for the continuation of Jordanian football on a competitive level on the continent.

Jordan’s coach Islam Diyabat, who suffered a head injury that required stitches while celebrating the victory over the UAE had earlier said: “I thank players for their efforts; they gave 100 per cent in this game.” He added the team has a vital mission. “This line-up will soon represent the Jordanian national team. Our aim is to return back to Amman with the title.”

Jordan was the first to qualify to the inaugural AFC U-22 Championship finals after leading Group D qualifiers with an unbeaten run — beating Uzbekistan 3-1, Nepal 3-0, Bangladesh 3-0 and Yemen 4-0.

The second edition in 2015 will qualify teams to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Officials hope the U-22 team will follow up on the achievements of the senior team that reached the Asian Cup quarters twice and also reached an intercontinental qualifying tie against Uruguay for a place in the World Cup.

Previously, the Kingdom reached the AFC U-19 Championship four times. In 2006, the team achieved the country’s biggest football sporting success when they finished fourth at the championship and qualified to the 2007 FIFA Youth World Cup in Canada.

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