Jordan’s Cinderella Story at the Asian Cup: How the Underdogs Reached the Semi-Finals with Grit and Determination

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jordan's cinderella story at the asian cup how the underdogs reached the semi finals with grit and determination

The Asian Cup is the biggest and most prestigious football tournament in Asia, featuring 24 teams from across the continent. The tournament is held every four years, and the current edition is hosted by Qatar in 2024. The tournament is also a qualification route for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with the top four teams securing their spots in the global showpiece.

Jordan is a small and modest country in the Middle East, with a population of about 10 million and a GDP of about 42 billion USD. The country is known for its ancient and cultural heritage, its political stability and security, and its hospitality and generosity. The country is also passionate about football, but has never qualified for the World Cup or reached the final of the Asian Cup.

Jordan’s national team, nicknamed the Chivalrous, is ranked 97th in the world and 15th in Asia. The team is coached by Vital Borkelmans, a former Belgian international who took charge in 2018. The team is led by captain and goalkeeper Amer Shafi, the most capped player in Jordanian history, and features a mix of experienced and young players, such as defender Tareq Khattab, midfielder Baha Faisal, and striker Yousef Rawashdeh.

Journey

Jordan’s journey at the Asian Cup has been nothing short of remarkable, as the team defied the odds and expectations to reach the semi-finals for the first time. Jordan’s journey has been marked by the following highlights:

  • Group Stage: Jordan stunned the football world by topping Group E, ahead of the favorites and former champions Korea Republic. Jordan won their opening match against Malaysia 4-0, with Rawashdeh scoring a hat-trick. Jordan then drew 2-2 with Korea Republic, after coming back from a goal down twice, with Al Naimat and Al Arab scoring in stoppage time. Jordan secured their qualification with a 1-0 win over Bahrain, thanks to a header from Nasib.
  • Round of 16: Jordan faced Iraq, the 2007 champions and the runners-up in 2015, in a tough and tense encounter. Jordan took the lead in first half stoppage time, with Al Naimat scoring from a free-kick. Iraq equalized in the 68th minute, with Natiq heading in a corner. Iraq then took the lead in the 76th minute, with Hussein converting a penalty. However, Iraq were reduced to 10 men, as Hussein received a second yellow card for his celebration. Jordan capitalized on their numerical advantage, and scored two goals in injury time, with Al Arab and Al Rashdan netting the dramatic winners.
  • Quarter-final: Jordan faced Tajikistan, the surprise package and the debutants of the tournament, in a close and cagey affair. Jordan just shaded a tight first half which saw limited opportunities for both sides but that changed in the 66th minute when defender Abdullah Nasib rose highest to head Ehsan Haddad’s delivery from a corner, with his effort bouncing off Tajik defender Vahdat Hanonov before settling in the back of the net for what proved to be the goal that took Jordan into the semi-finals for the first time.

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Expectations

Jordan’s expectations for the semi-final are high and hopeful, as the team faces Korea Republic, the three-time champions and the runners-up in 2015 and 2019, in a rematch of their group stage encounter. Jordan’s expectations are based on the following factors:

  • Confidence: Jordan is riding on a wave of confidence and momentum, as they have shown remarkable resilience and determination to overcome their opponents and their challenges. Jordan have also proven that they can match and challenge Korea Republic, as they drew 2-2 with them in the group stage, and nearly won the game.
  • Support: Jordan are enjoying the support and admiration of their fans and the public, both at home and abroad, as they have made history and brought joy and pride to their country. Jordan are also receiving the support and encouragement of other teams and players, who have praised and congratulated them for their achievements and performances.
  • Motivation: Jordan are motivated and inspired to continue their fairy tale run and to achieve their ultimate dream of reaching the final and qualifying for the World Cup. Jordan are also motivated and inspired by their coach, Borkelmans, who has instilled a positive and ambitious mentality in the team, and who has personal experience of reaching the World Cup semi-final with Belgium in 1986.

Jordan will face Korea Republic in the first semi-final on Tuesday, February 6, 2024, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. The match will kick off at 18:00 (UTC+3). The winner will advance to the final, where they will meet either Iran or Kuwait, who will play in the second semi-final on Wednesday, February 7, 2024. The loser will play in the third-place match, where they will still have a chance to qualify for the World Cup, as the fifth-placed team in Asia will enter the intercontinental play-offs.

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