Jordan players during a training session yesterday.
Doha, Qatar: Jordan are relishing their best-ever performance at the Asian Cup, bracing for their debut appearance in the semi-finals of the continent’s premier competition.
They are up against Jurgen Klinsmann-coached South Korea, a side far more experienced than them at this stage. The Taeguk Warriors, who showed remarkable resilience in the knockout stage to reach the last four, are favourites to win at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium this evening but Hussein Ammouta’s Jordan – the lowest ranked side left in the tournament – have reasons to believe they can pull off an upset and make more history in the tournament.
The two teams shared Group E from where Jordan emerged as the surprise winners and the Koreans could only salvaged a point against them with an injury-time own goal when the two sides last met. They have also played a draw earlier with today’s semi-final being their third meeting.
It is the first time Jordan, who defeated Tajkistan 1-0 in the quarter-final, have clinched three victories in a single edition of the Asian Cup, and Ammouta feels the side can reach Saturday’s final with good tactics against Klinsmann’s side.
“Everyone in this competition is mentally prepared, and that’s why we have to focus on improving the tactical aspects of our game. We need to make improvements when playing at this stage of the tournament and the tactical aspects should be well covered,” the Jordan coach said yesterday.
Hussein Ammouta, Jordan coach
“Making tactical decisions involves avoiding or pressuring strong teams and ensuring that every player gets what they deserve. Each team needs thorough preparation, both mentally and physically, to endure playing for 120 minutes.”
Ammouta added facing the Koreans in the semi-final will certainly be the toughest test for his side so far.
“It’s going to be a very challenging match for both teams. This match will be more difficult than the ones we had in the group stage. But we are placing plenty of emphasis on our preparation,” the 54-year-old said.
Jordan will miss Ali Olwan and Salem Al Ajalin in the showdown with the duo serving the suspension but Ammouta said his available players have firepower to compensate for the absences.
“We will certainly miss the players who can’t play in the semi-final. They were part of the core players in the Jordan team but we have players who can step into these roles. We will need to make some sacrifices and the players know that they are required to make big decisions when they step onto the field,” he said.
South Korea players in action during a training session ahead of the semi-final.
The Jordan coach was also banking on fans support at the 45,000-capacity venue.
“We rely heavily on the presence of our fans and I hope we put in an excellent performance for them.”
South Korea took a dramatic route to book a semi-final berth for the eighth time – their fifth in the last seven editions – beating Saudi Arabia and Australia in last 16 and quarter-finals respectively following last-gasp comebacks.
Klinsmann said the team is motivated to continue their march in the tournament in a bid to win the third trophy – their first since the 1960 triumph.
“We are very excited for this semi-final match, a huge compliment to Jordan. We emerged from the same group, which only highlights our strong team dynamics. However, our hunger for success drives us to go further. We are fit, optimistic and eagerly looking forward to advancing all the way to the final. The mood within the team is very positive,” he said.
Jurgen Klinsmann, South Korea coach
“The team needs to stay relaxed, focus on the upcoming challenge and eliminate distractions that are not important right now. I believe this group of players are experienced and our goal is to reach the final and we are entering the match against a very strong Jordan team fully prepared to play 120 minutes and even face a penalty shootout if needed.”
“Jordan has very special players who can turn the match around. We need to prevent them from scoring and stay on top of our game, playing to our strengths. We have faced them in the group stage and the key is to score one more than the opponent,” said the German legend.
South Korea will also miss Bayern Munich’s Kim Min-jae in the semi-final through suspension. Jordan will be aiming to continue their dream run when they take on South Korea in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 today.
Jordan advanced to the last four stage with a 1-0 win over Tajikistan while South Korea needed a Son Heung-min special to see off the challenge of Australia in their quarter-final.
While this will be South Korea’s eighth AFC Asian Cup semi-final, Jordan will be playing at this stage for the first time.
Last four stage regulars
This will be South Korea’s fifth AFC Asian Cup semi-final in seven editions, but they only advanced to the final once from their previous four appearances at this stage – in 2015.
South Korea lost the 2015 final, as they did in 1972, 1980 and 1988, having emerged champions in 1956 and 1960. Jordan’s previous best was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2004 and 2011 editions.
Jordan are the 16th team to reach semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup, the first new side at this stage since Australia and Uzbekistan did so in 2011.
Hard to separate
The semi-final will be the third time the two sides will meet, with their previous encounters ending in stalemates – their most recent being a 2-2 draw in the Qatar 2023 group stage.
Odds against Taeguk Warriors?
South Korea have faced the same opponents twice in a single edition three times previously, losing two finals (1980 v Kuwait; 2015 v Australia) and winning a third-place match (2000 v China PR).
South Korea have been in a losing position in four of their five matches in Qatar 2023, as many as in their previous 23 games from 2007 to 2019. They have won just one of eight games in which they trailed – needing extra-time to defeat Australia 2-1 in the ongoing tournament.
Jordan have won three games in a single edition of AFC Asian Cup for the first time. Also, they have scored 10 goals in a single edition for the first time, one more than they did in the previous two tournaments combined (2015-2019 with seven games).
Jordan’s Ali Olwan and Salem Al Ajalin will miss the semi-final through suspension, as will South Korea’s Kim Min-Jae. The East Asian side accumulated 11 yellow cards en route to last four stage, with Jordan one ahead.
South Korea’s Son Heung-min has scored seven AFC Asian Cup goals since making his tournament debut in 2011. Only two players have scored more in the period – Qatar’s Almoez Ali (10) and UAE’s Ali Mabkhout.
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