Jordan produced the shock of this AFC Asian Cup by defeating South Korea 2-0 to move into Saturday’s final against the winner of the other semifinal between hosts Qatar and Iran.
Here are five things we learned from the epic match.
Jordan have announced their presence to the world.
There was real emotion at the final whistle, as you would expect at the end of a victorious semifinal, especially a first one.
Jordan has long been a solid national team in Asia and have reached quarterfinals before, as well as the final round of qualification for World Cups, but for the first time they are making headlines, not just in the continent but also around the world.
For Asian fans, Jordan may have been respected, but not especially exciting; a team built on a solid defense and strong teamwork, with Amman long being a tough place to go because of the tight stadiums and intimidating crowds. This is not a team that has traditionally been box office, but this is changing. At this Asian Cup, Jordan have been exhilarating to watch.
Millions of people are waking up to the fact that this Jordan team can go all the way and are a lot stronger than the ranking of 87 suggests. Whatever happens on Saturday against either Qatar or Iran, it has already been a real ride.
Lessons learned from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia were the better team for most of their second-round clash with South Korea. The Green Falcons scored early in the second half and looked quite comfortable until the final stages.
Then they sat deeper and deeper and invited attack after attack from the Koreans. There was no surprise when Cho Gue-sung headed home the equalizer in the 99th minute and from that moment on, there looked to be just one winner.
Jordan did not follow Saudi Arabia’s example. They kept pushing for the second goal and even when that came, they came close to scoring a third. In all, it was a brave performance.
“There is no need to respect the opponent more than necessary,” coach Hussein Ammouta said. “I looked at the statistics of the last five games. Korea conceded eight goals. We can score again. We knew we had it. Our attackers are great, but we created five chances in the first half. We were able to score on our first attack of the second half.”
Attack really is the best form of defense.
The two goalscorers deserve the headlines
Too often the players who score the goals get all the attention, but this time it is hard to disagree, as Yazan Al-Naimat and Mousa Taamari earned all the praise in the world.
The latter usually grabs the headlines for his undoubted skills and the fact that he is one of the few players in the region to play for one of the big leagues in Europe. Taamari was magnificent once again, and his goal was not only one of pace, skill and vision but also killed off any Korean hopes of a comeback.
Al-Naimat, who plays his club football in Qatar, matched his famous teammate step for step. He was a constant offensive threat and almost scored what would have been perhaps the goal of the tournament. He then got the goal with a perfect dinked finish, one that any striker in the world would be proud of.
It was, of course, a team effort, but with forward players like this, Jordan can go all the way.
Too much should not be read into build-up results.
It is amazing to think just how under the radar Jordan were before it all started. It is hard to blame the pundits. though — the form in the build-up was truly poor. There were five defeats and two draws in the seven games in the second half of 2023 after Ammouta took the job.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia went to Amman in a World Cup qualifier in November and won fairly comfortably, and if anyone had said then that one of the two teams would be in the Asian Cup final a few weeks later, everyone would have assumed that the Green Falcons were being talked about.
Jordan started the year with a 2-1 win over Qatar, but then were thrashed 6-1 by Japan just a few days before the tournament started. Not just that but they finished in third place in the group and have since looked very good, indeed.
There were genuine doubts about Ammouta before it all started and no expectations for the team. The coach proved the doubters wrong and reaffirmed his pedigree. And the team’s exploits in the past three weeks show that football is not a science and that sometimes the common wisdom can be turned on its head.
Teamwork and tactics beats stars.
Korea have the big-name stars, such as Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Kang-in and Kim Min-jae, who play for some of the biggest clubs around. There is no doubt that there was talent in the Taeguk Warriors, but these famous names had little impact on the game.
Korea did not seem to have much of a game plan and were taken aback by the intensity of the Jordanian game. They cannot say they were not warned, as the group stage game ended 2-2 only because of a last-minute Jordanian goal.
Korea were made to look second rate, and this is partly because of Jordan preparing so well for this game, getting the tactics right and then working so hard to execute the game plan. It is not enough to have star names; you need to have everything else. At the moment, Jordan have both.