Jordan sweep aside South Korea to reach their first Asian Cup final

Goals from Al Naimat and Al Taamari give Hussein Ammouta's side victory in semi-final

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Never before beyond the Asian Cup quarter-finals, Jordan are now one match from the trophy, their incredible campaign in Doha delivering once more.

Hussein Ammouta’s history-makers etched another chapter in the record books on Tuesday night, sweeping aside two-time champions South Korea at an electric Ahmad bin Ali Stadium to stride into Saturday’s final. In the end it was 2-0. It should have been much more.

South Korea, contesting an eighth Asian Cup semi-final to Jordan’s one, were behind as they have been for the majority of their stay in Qatar. But this time, their so-called “Zombie” football had run out of life. Champions in 1956 and 1960, and runners-up four times since, their title drought will extend well past the current 64 years. Surely Jurgen Klinsmann’s time is up.

Yet this was Jordan’s night. Ranked 65 spots below, they not only out-worked their loftier opponents, but outclassed them – and right when the spotlight shone brightest.

This was no backs-to-the-wall, smash-and-grab effort. Wholly dominant against Asia’s third-highest team in Fifa's standings, Jordan provided a performance of a lifetime to claim a victory for the ages. They puffed out their chests and pushed back their rivals from Europe's top domestic competitions until they could hold them no more.

Yazan Al Naimat and Musa Al Taamari got the goals, but to a man they were superior. Neither Iran nor Qatar will fancy them in the showpiece.

From the off, Jordan set about South Korea as if their lives depended on it. They snapped into challenges, forced errors, pounced on misplaced passes. Within 28 minutes, they had eight attempts at goal. The Koreans had mustered one. By the conclusion, that particular stat read 17 to eight. South Korea, led by superstar Son Heung-min, did not hit the target once.

Nizar Al Rashdan, scorer of that sumptuous, last-gasp winner against Iraq in the last-16, tested Jo Hyeon-woon in the opposite goal as early as the fourth minute. Not long after, Mahmoud Al Mardi did, too.

It took 24 minutes for South Korea to threaten at the other end; Lee Kang-in volleyed way over the Jordan crossbar when well positioned at the back post.

Almost in an instant, though, normal service resumed: Korea twice surrendered possession needlessly, Al Naimat was repelled by Jo and Al Taamari curled an effort off inches target.

Jordan fans celebrate reaching Asian cup final

Jordan fans celebrate reaching Asian cup final

However, just before the half hour, South Korea thought they had a reprieve. Initially, UAE referee Mohammed Abdullah Hassan awarded a penalty for a coming together between Seol Young-woo and Yazan Al Arab, but after consulting VAR, he realised the Korean full-back had actually committed the foul.

Sensing a switch in momentum, South Korea nearly seized the lead. Hwang In-beom sent in a cross and Lee Jae-sung nodded the ball goalwards. Yet his header cannoned off the Jordan upright.

As half-time approached, Al Naimat raced into the Korean penalty area before slaloming somehow past three defenders. But Jo blocked brilliantly.

Although, much like his team time and again this tournament, Al Naimat would ultimately not be denied. Not even eight second-half minutes had elapsed when Al Taamari intercepted another loose pass by Park Yong-woo, advanced at speed and slid in his fellow forward. Al Naimat chipped beautifully past Jo, and the partisan Jordanian crowd erupted.

Stunned, and not for the first time in Qatar, Klinsmann threw on baulking striker Cho Gue-sung. Soon, Cho headed over the Jordan bar.

Still, Jordan looked the more likely. On 66 minutes, Al Taamari would have his moment. Latching again on a Korean concession, the Montpellier winger collected the ball just inside the half, raced at a backtracking defence, dropped his shoulder to move inside and then arched a sublime shot away from Jo at full stretch.

Jordan were in dreamland, South Korea in despair. The six-time finalists were battered by a buoyant and bright side never before to this point. Another similar display in four days’ time – if that is even possible – and Jordan will be Asian Cup champions.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 9:29 AM