Jordan united as they seek to upset Qatar and claim first Asian Cup title

Defender Salem Al Ajalin says togetherness is fuelling their remarkable run ahead of Saturday's final

Jordan's Salem Al Ajalin, left, and Qatar's Hassan Al Haydos pose next to the Asian Cup trophy ahead of Saturday's final. AP
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Jordan defender Salem Al Ajalin says his history-making side will play with “one heart and one soul” in Saturday’s Asian Cup final against hosts and defending champions Qatar.

The Jordanians, never before past the quarter-final of the continent’s marquee tournament, take on the 2019 winners at what is expected to be a capacity 88,000 Lusail Stadium to the north of Doha.

Irrespective of the result, Hussein Ammouta’s team have been one of the stories of the past month in Qatar, seeing off a much-fancied Iraq and then a star-studded South Korea en route to the showpiece.

Jordan completely outplayed the latter in Tuesday’s semi-final, when the 2-0 defeat even somewhat flattered the two-time champions.

Al Ajalin missed the match through suspension, but is available again for Saturday’s showdown – as, too, is previously suspended striker Ali Olwan.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian Football Association has flown in the players' families for additional support.

Speaking at Friday’s pre-match press conference, Al Ajalin said: "We play with one heart, one soul. We are united. Reaching the final is an achievement for everyone, and it is nice to have our family with us and present in the crowd."

At 58th in the Fifa rankings, Qatar sit 29 places above Jordan, providing yet another reason why they go into the final as favourites. They have not lost all tournament – Jordan were beaten in their final group game, against Bahrain – and have scored in every game.

Jordan fans celebrate reaching Asian cup final

Jordan fans celebrate reaching Asian cup final

To reach the last four, Qatar defeated Iran, Asia’s second-highest ranked side, on Wednesday in a thrilling contest. Lead forwards Akram Afif and Almoez Ali both got on the scoresheet.

Asked how he planned to stop Qatar’s talented attack, Al Ajalin said: "For us, as players, we work in a system from the goalkeeper all the way to the attackers, as one unit. The defence starts from the offence.

“They have an amazing side who can score in every match, but we also have outstanding players, so the match will be very strong between two teams.

“Always, the final is based on details, and hopefully tomorrow it will be a match of an excellent performance for all the Arab world.”

“Always, the final is based on details, and hopefully tomorrow it will be a match of an excellent performance for all the Arab world.”
Jordan defender Salem Al Ajalin

Sitting alongside Al Ajalin, Ammouta rejected suggestions Qatar go into the match with more pressure to win than his own side.

“This is a final and everyone will prepare in the right manner,” the Moroccan said. “It’s part of the job to control or to manage the pressure – it’s a final after all. And I’m very sure the Qatar team are preparing well.

“We will play with no extra pressure because our team is complete; we want to avoid any distractions at this moment.

“It’s a final, so the pressure is already there. The match will be a technical one rather than physical, and everyone will seek to be the winner.”

Echoing Al Ajalin's sentiments, Ammouta added: “All the players are motivated and [available for selection]. The results of the team are because of the collaboration and effort of everyone.

"The players are committed and disciplined. But it is not just their morale and fighting spirit. They follow the plan to the letter."

Opposing captain Hassan Al Haydos insisted his Qatar team had already proved pre-tournament critics wrong by reaching a second successive final.

Attempting to become the first country since Japan in 2004 to retain the trophy, the holders entered their home event seemingly in crisis, with manager “Tintin” Marquez Lopez installed one month out as a replacement for Carlos Queiroz.

However, on Saturday, Al Haydos said: "A month before the tournament, no one thought we would reach the final and no one thought we would deliver performances like this. But we are here, in another final.

"Working together with the coach, technical staff and the Qatar Football Association, the team was able to reach this level because of the efforts of the players and the unity in the team."

Lopez said of the Jordan encounter: "It's a match between two brotherly countries, but there should be competition between brothers; each of us would like to win.

“We know the ties between both countries are very strong, but at the end we will compete hard in this game, with respect of course."

The Spaniard added: "We've had obstacles before this; it wasn't an easy journey. However, we are here now, but we haven't achieved anything yet.

“In Spain, there is a saying: second place is first among losers. We're not satisfied with second, we will play for the trophy. We want to be the best in the continent."

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Updated: February 09, 2024, 1:44 PM