AMMAN — The national football team is upbeat as they prepare for the 7th West Asian Championship in Kuwait in December.
“We will be heading to Kuwait to play for the title,” head coach Adnan Hamad told the media after the line-up regrouped at Hussein Youth City’s Petra Stadium.
The squad will be completed after Wihdat and Shabab Urdun play their postponed match on December 1 as well as from Baqaa, who lost their away game in the Arab Clubs Cup 1-0 to Yemen’s Shaab Ibb.
“The changes to the squad are not final,” Hamad said explaining the recall of younger players from the U-22 squad as he tries to finalise his line-up while dropping some players who were on duty lately in World Cup qualifiers including goalkeeper Amer Shafie.
“My aim is clear. The strategic purpose is to keep the Jordanian team competitive in Asia,” Hamad added, noting the team would play the West Asian event, the Asian Cup qualifiers and the remaining World Cup qualifiers.
The Kingdom is set to meet China on January 30 in a friendly before it plays Singapore on February 6 at the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The upcoming West Asian event will include 11 teams: Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Jordan and Kuwait. Jordan plays in Group C with Iraq and Syria at the event that ends on December 20. Titleholders Kuwait will play in Group A alongside Oman, Lebanon and Palestine. Iran will play in Group B alongside Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The top team from each group as well as the best second-placed team will move to the semis.
The national team lost 1-0 to Iraq in their latest Leg 2, Round 4 Group B 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifying match, complicating their chances of keeping alive the dreams of Jordanian fans to possibly reach the World Cup. With another three matches to go, Jordan so far drew 1-1 with Iraq, lost 6-0 to Japan and 2-1 to Oman, and scored a historic 2-1 win over Australia.
Observers noted the late regrouping of pros playing abroad and possibly the ageing line-up of players as reasons for the team’s declining form. Others noted that pro players were not given ample playing time in their respective clubs which reflected negatively on their performance with the national team.
Changes to the line-up seem to be part of Hamad’s strategy.
“We lost a win we deserved,” Hamad told reporters following the team’s return. He alluded to some officiating snags and a lost penalty which cost the team the match. “There are four months before we face Japan in the return leg. We will do whatever is needed to be in top form.”
Following the West Asian event, Jordan will play the Asian Cup 2015 qualifiers in which Jordan was drawn in Group A with Oman, Syria and Singapore starting February 6, 2013.
They will also resume return leg World Cup qualifiers by hosting Japan on March 26, 2013, Australia on June 11, 2013, and Oman on June 18, 2013.
The Jordanian team reached the final qualifying Round 4 for the first time since taking part in the qualifiers back in 1985. The squad joined the continent’s top 10 qualifying teams in two round-robin, home-and-away groups of five teams each with matches ending June 18, 2013.
South Korea lead Group A with 10 points despite losing to Iran 1-0. Uzbekistan are third, Lebanon fourth and Qatar is placed last. The two group winners and two group runners-up qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The third-placed teams from each group advance to Round 5.
Jordan dropped 12 spots to 90th in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the lowest of 2012.