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Jordan hosts U-23 Asian qualifiers

By Aline Bannayan - Oct 24,2021 - Last updated at Oct 24,2021

AMMAN — Jordan’s national U-23 team is upbeat as it kicks off Group F Asian U-23 qualifiers on Monday which qualifies the top team to the 5th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Uzbekistan in June 2022.

Jordan will play Turkmenistan on the opening day before facing Palestine on October 31 as 39 teams contest the qualifiers for 15 spots to join hosts Uzbekistan in the final championship which will be held in Central Asia for the first time.

The national team is fresh out of the 2021 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) U-23 Championship in which it was crowned champs after beating host Saudi Arabia in the final. On their way to the title, in the group stages they beat Kuwait and Yemen 2-1 and lost to Oman 1-0.  In the semifinals, they eliminated Syria 5-2 as Saudi Arabia beat Iraq 1-0.

In 2015, Jordan was eliminated in the group stages of the first edition of the WAFF U-23 Championship won by Iran, before they moved to the Central Asian Football Association. 

The WAFF Championship was part of final preparations for the U-23 Asian Championship. Jordan lately played Syria in two friendlies beating their guests 1-0 and drawing 2-2 in the second. 

“We have a big responsibility,” coach Ahmad Hayel told the press before the qualifiers kicked off. “We won on the regional level, and now aim to be assertively present among the best of the continents’ teams,” Hayel, who was praised by observers as having well prepared Jordan’s upcoming national team, added.

Previously, the U-23 squad reached the AFC U-23 Championship four times: in 2014 they finished third; in 2016, they reached the quarter-finals; in 2018, they were knocked out of Round 1; and in 2020, they reached the quarterfinals of Championship — which was a qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

National team looks to Europe camp

Meanwhile, Jordan’s senior national team is awaiting the end of the league competition before holding a training camp where it will play Kosovo on November 10 and Belarus on November 16 as they prepare for the FIFA Arab Cup — Qatar 2021, in December.

The squad went up three spots to 90th when the latest FIFA Rankings were released.

Jordan is now 13th in Asia, still lagging behind relatively uncompetitive Asian teams compared to their best ranking of 37th in 2004.  Iran leads Asian standings followed by Japan, Australia, Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, China, Oman, Uzbekistan and Syria.

Last week, Jordan hosted a three-nation tournament in Amman, in which they beat 84th ranked Uzbekistan 3-0 and 154th ranked Malaysia 4-0. The two wins made up for the squad’s dismal performance after Jordan lost to little known Haiti 2-0 and managed a 2-1 win over Bahrain who beat Haiti lost 6-1 in the first friendly tourney since Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad took over after the removal of Belgian Vital Borkelmans following the early exit from the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Jordan now needs to go through another stage of qualifying to get to the 2023 Asian Cup. 

Jordan will play in Group C alongside, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Palestine in the FIFA Arab Cup. In the preliminary round qualifier, Jordan overcame South Sudan on a technicality after the latter was forced to forfeit the match with over 6 members of the squad contracting the Corona virus. 

The Kingdom has taken part in past eight Arab Cups and hosted the 1988 edition. Iraq is record Arab Cup holder in 1964, 1966 1985 and 1988, Saudi Arabia in 1998 and 2002, Tunisia in 1963, Egypt in 1992 and Morocco in 2012.

Looking back at the Jordan’s peak performance, the team was on the verge of qualifying to the 2014 World Cup for the first time and advanced to play then World’s 6th ranked Uruguay in an intercontinental qualifying tie. The World Cup qualifying Round 3 was the furthest Jordan reached in the past seven times since taking part the 1986 qualifiers. 

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