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U-23 gets tough draw; senior team unconvincing in World Cup qualifiers

By Aline Bannayan - Nov 28,2023 - Last updated at Nov 28,2023

Jordanian football team continues qualifications for World Cup 2026 (Photo of Jordan FA)

AMMAN   —  The national football teams seem to have an uphill journey ahead as they start the countdown to their respective international qualifiers and Asian competitions.

During the past month, Jordan had a lackluster start to the 23rd World Cup 2026 qualifiers, as Group G matches kicked off with Jordan held 1-1 with Tajikistan before losing 2-0 to Saudi Arabia. The qualifiers also advance teams to the 2027 Asian Cup. 

Jordan is now 3rd in the group after Saudi beat Pakistan 4-0 while Tajikistan beat Pakistan 6-1. The Kingdom’s third qualifier against Pakistan is still four months later on March 26. 

A total of 36 Asian teams are playing in 9 groups with the top two teams from each group advancing to Round 3. Jordan is now ranked 86th, Saudi 53rd Tajikistan 108th and Pakistan 193rd.

Before the qualifiers resume, Jordan will be playing the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar kicking off on January 12, 2024. The national team will be playing in Group E alongside Bahrain, Malaysia and South Korea.

Hasan Amouta, Jordan’s Moroccan coach who took over the job in summer is yet to score a victory with his lineup in six matches played so far. The Jordan Football Association is going ahead with the national team coach’s agenda with hopes of an advanced spot in the upcoming Asian Cup, as well as advancing Jordan to the 2026 World Cup with Asia allotted 8 slots in the next edition in additional to a zonal qualifier after expanding the number to include 48 nations.

During the past matches, Jordan lost 6-0 to Norway, 2-1 to Azerbaijan, 3-1 to Iran and tied Iraq 2-2 before losing on penalties. The coach has recalled new players, but the fact that many leading players play abroad, including Tamer Ta’mari, who now plays for Frances’ Montpellier and is one of the French League’s  top scorers, is not helping much in terms of team cohesion. Goalie Yazeed Abu Laila underlined the lineup was getting more coherent and adapting to new coach’s strategy and style who has announced his eventual aim would be “to have a younger competitive group who can serve the national team for upcoming years”. 

Since first taking part in the Asian Cup qualifiers in 1972, Jordan has qualified to the Asian Cup five times. The highlight was in 2004, when it lost to Japan in the quarterfinals and jumped to the best ever FIFA rank of 37th. They also reached the Asian Cup in 2011 and 2015 and 2019 and for the next edition.

On the World Cup qualifying scene, the Kingdom was on the verge of qualifying to the 2014 World Cup for the first time and advanced to play then FIFA 6th ranked Uruguay in an intercontinental qualifying tie before exiting the qualifiers. Jordan had never reached that far in World Cup qualifying since first taking part in qualifiers. Round 3 had been the furthest they reached in the  past 7 times since the 1986 qualifiers. 

On the other hand, Jordan’s U-23 team was drawn in a tough group for 6th AFC U-23 Asian Cup set for April 2024.  The top three teams from the AFC U-23 Asian Cup will advance to the Olympics while the fourth will play a play-off to advance.

The Kingdom was drawn in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, Australia and Indonesia. 

Group B includes Japan, Korea, UAE and China.

Group C includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand and Tajikistan;

Group D includes Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia.

Jordan qualified to its 6th AFC U-23 Asian Cup after hosting Group A qualifiers, and  finishing unbeaten over Brunei 9-0, Oman 1-0 and Syria 2-0 to clinch the sole qualifying spot from the group. 43 teams contested the qualifiers in 11 groups with the top team from each group together with four best second placed teams advancing to the U-23 Asian Cup alongside hosts Qatar. 

During their past participation at the U-23 Asian Cup (previously the Asian Championship), Jordan finished 3rd in 2013, reached the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2020, and were knocked out of the first round in 2018 and 2022. 

Jordan is now readying for the Asian Cup through a series of friendlies but  it has been a challenge for coach Abdullah Abu Zam’eh, to maintain a cohesive lineup and training plan with  players on the senior national team on duty for World Cup qualifiers or Asian club championships.

The coach successfully guided his team through qualifiers the despite a lackluster preparation agenda. This week, the lineup took part in a friendly in Saudi Arabia where it lost to the hosts 2-1 and Qatar 1-0. Earlier Jordan also lost to Egypt in a friendly. This year, the team reached the semifinals of the U-23 West Asian Championship, which they won in 2021. They did not play in 2022. 

This week, U-20 national team beat Lebanon twice 2-1 this week after a training camp in Turkey saw them win two matches and draw in a third as they prepare for their Asian qualifying agenda.

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