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Jordan set to play ‘more’ football friendlies this year

By Aline Bannayan - Jul 10,2016 - Last updated at Jul 10,2016

AMMAN — Jordan’s national football team is set to play at least seven friendly matches amid preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers starting in March 2017.

After putting behind elimination from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, national team coach Abdullah Abu Zam’eh, who assisted Harry Redknapp in the interim period, has recalled mainly younger players including Olympic team players and excluded stars like goalie Amer Shafie, Anas Bani Yasin, Hasan Abdul Fattah and Odey Saifi. 

Last month, Jordan went up to 80th in the latest FIFA Rankings and is now 8th in Asia. The team last played at the King’s Cup, an international football tournament organised in Thailand by the Football Association of Thailand, where it lost to the host in the final.

Abu Zam’eh underlined the first friendly will be on August 18 against Qatar before playing Lebanon on August 31 and Bahrain on September 4. In October, Jordan is set to play Oman on the 7th and either Iran or Syria later on. In November, Jordan will play Iraq on November 6th Uzbekistan on the 10th and Lebanon on the 15th.

“We aim to have the biggest number of friendlies possible which will help team cohesion and preparedness ahead of the final phase of the qualifiers, “ Abu Zam’eh was quoted as saying on the Jordan Football Association website

The Kingdom was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers doubling as part of the qualification for 2019 Asian Cup after a dismal 5-1 defeat to Australia. The qualifying journey ended in Round 1 after an inconsistent year that saw the national team lose 1-0 to Kyrgyzstan 3-0 to Tajikistan and scoring an 8-0 win over Bangladesh in Leg 2. In Leg 1, Jordan was held to a disappointing 0-0 draw with Kyrgyzstan, beat Tajikistan 3-1, Australia 2-0 and Bangladesh 4-0. 

The group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) advance to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining slots (12 slots or 11 slots + one slot for the host) in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup. 

It has been an inconsistent year for Jordan’s squad which has seen three coaches leading the vital qualifying process. The line-up was led by Briton Ray Wilkins under whom the team failed to advance past the first round of the 16th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in 2015 before Ahmad Abdul Qader took over in the transitional phase under whom the team played the first qualifier. Belgian Paul Put took over in July 2015 but his tenure was also suspended when he was caught in the midst of a court case over match fixing in the Belgian league. Harry Redknapp led the team in the last two qualifiers with a focus on reaching the Asian Championship and keeping World Cup qualifying chances alive.

The Kingdom had the most memorable World Cup qualifying journey in 2013 when it lost a possible chance to play at the World Cup for the first time and advanced to play then World’s 6th ranked Uruguay in an intercontinental qualifying tie for a place in the 2014 World Cup. Jordan lost the home game 5-0 and held the former World Cup champs 0-0 in the away match. Jordan had never reached that far in World Cup qualifying since taking part in the qualifiers in 1985. Round 3 had been the furthest Jordan reached in the past seven times in the qualifiers.

 

In the Asian Cup, Jordan reached the Championship three times since first taking part in qualifiers in 1972: the pinnacle was at the 13th Asian Cup, when it lost to Japan in the quarter-finals and jumped to the best ever FIFA Ranking of 37th in August 2004. In 2011, Jordan again reached the quarter-finals.

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