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Wihdat start countdown to AFC Cup

By Aline Bannayan - Feb 13,2016 - Last updated at Feb 13,2016

AMMAN — Jordan’s Wihdat will now switch focus to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup after being eliminated from the preliminary round of the Asian Champions League (ACL) for the second consecutive year.

Observers have lauded Wihdat’s performance in their 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia’s Ittihad Jeddah. As Jordan Professional League champs, Wihdat were Jordan’s representative in the ACL — the premier Asian competition — last year as well and were knocked out in the preliminary round by former titleholders Kuwait’s Qadissieh. In 2014, Shabab Urdun were eliminated by Bahrain’s Al Hidd.

Failing to advance to the group stages of the ACL, Wihdat will now join Faisali in the AFC Cup this season with matches scheduled to kick off on February 23. Had Wihdat advanced past the ACL preliminary round, Jazira would have joined Faisali in the AFC Cup.

The AFC — the second-tier Asian club competition — has been won three times by Jordanian teams : Faisali won titles in 2005 and 2006, and Shabab Urdun won in 2007.

The upcoming 13th edition seems to bode well for Jordanian clubs to win back the title after record winning Kuwaiti teams were suspended by FIFA. Prize money includes $1 million for the champs, $500,000 for the runners-up, $40,000 for semifinalists, $25,000 for quarter-finalists and $15,000 for teams reaching the Round of 16.

Wihdat have been league champs for the past two seasons. This year their fortunes have turned around as they conceded the season opening 33rd Super Cup to rivals Faisali. After elimination from the Jordan Cup, they only have the league title in contention. As Leg 2 restarted last week and clubs kicked off their regional matches, Wihdat sought to revamp the team, signing new pros and hope to compete for local and regional titles.

 

In 2015, Jordanian teams were absent from advanced stages of Asian competitions as Wihdat and Jazira were knocked out of the AFC Cup Round of 16. While it was the first time for Jazira, who finished runner-up in the Jordan League and participated in the event after two-time AFC Cup champs and Faisali declined, Wihdat were hoping to advance and win the AFC Cup for the first time after taking part eight times.

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