In-form Qatar look to defend Asian Cup crown against gritty Jordan
Who: Jordan vs Qatar
What: AFC Asian Cup 2023 final
When: Saturday, February 10, 2024, 6pm (15:00 GMT)
Where: Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar
After nearly a month of high-octane football, featuring several surprises and upsets, the AFC Asian Cup is set to conclude with an all-Arab final, as hosts Qatar look to defend their title against giant-killers Jordan.
Qatar entered the tournament as the reigning champions, but they were not counted among the outright favourites to lift the trophy owing to their poor record against higher-ranked sides in the build-up to the event.
But Tintin Marquez Lopez‘s side have exceeded expectations with an all-round performance and by reaching the final for a second straight time. Enjoying the support of a partisan crowd, Qatar have scored in every game on their way to the final.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this squad – a month ago no one expected us to reach the final, no one thought we could deliver these performances,” Qatar skipper Hassan Al-Haydos told reporters on Friday.
“Working together with the coach, technical staff and the Qatar Football Association, we were able to reach this level because of the squad’s unity.”
‘Jordan will respond to the critics’
While Qatar will carry the weight of expectations, Jordan will play with nothing to lose in their maiden AFC Asian Cup final.
The surprise package of the tournament, Jordan finished third in their group and scraped through to the knockouts, where they suddenly elevated their game to eliminate heavyweights Iraq and South Korea.
That was a triumph for their Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta, who was heavily criticised when they finished 2023 without a win in seven games, which included six losses.
“I’m very satisfied with our achievement because it was a personal challenge,” Ammouta said.
“When a team loses the coach is blamed and when they win they say it’s because of team morale. We prepare with all aspects in mind – physical, mental, tactical and psychological.
“I hope we’ll be ready when the first whistle blows and we’ll respond to the critics, 99 percent of the time I don’t listen to them since I don’t find anything useful.”
— #AsianCup2023 (@afcasiancup) February 9, 2024
Jordan’s players to watch
With three goals and an assist, Al-Tamari has been Jordan’s standout performer. The only player in the Jordanian squad who plies his trade in Europe – with Montpellier SC in France – Al-Tamari’s direct play and dribbling speed make him a threat to any defence.
Al-Arab been a colossal figure for Jordan in the heart of their defence, forming a solid centre-back partnership with Abdallah Nasib. Powerfully built and standing at 1.86 metres (six feet three inches), Al-Arab is a towering presence in both boxes.
Al-Naimat has a knack for finding space between defenders and more often than not, times his run to perfection. Having scored in the group match against South Korea, the 24-year-old went up another level when he scored in the last 16 and semifinals.
— Mousa Al Tamari (@TamariMousa) February 9, 2024
Qatar’s players to watch
Afif has been in exceptional form, bagging five goals and three assists. His pace, skill and vision have created havoc for the opposition defenders throughout the tournament.
Al-Haydos has played the skipper’s role to perfection with his technical prowess, exceptional vision and strong leadership qualities. The 33-year-old can score too, as stunningly seen in the group stage match against China, with further goals against Palestine and Uzbekistan.
Unlike 2019, Ali has not been firing in the goals at this tournament but there is no disputing the vital role he plays in the squad. The forward’s work rate is second to none, as he is equally adept in leading attacks and falling back to defend.
Akram Afif has scored or assisted 19 of the last 29 goals for Qatar in the #AsianCup 🇶🇦
— Wael Jabir (@waeljabir) February 7, 2024
Jordan began their group stage by beating Malaysia 4-0 and then held South Korea to a 2-2 draw. They lost 1-0 to Bahrain but managed to qualify for the next round, where they knocked out Iraq 3-2 in a dramatic last-16 clash.
The quarterfinal saw Jordan beat Tajikistan 1-0 and they pulled off their biggest result in the semifinals when they beat three-time champions South Korea 2-0.
Qatar maintained a 100 percent winning record in the group stage, beating Lebanon, Tajikistan and China. They then edged out Palestine 2-1 in the last 16 but had to work hard in the quarterfinals for a 3-2 penalty shootout win against Uzbekistan.
In the semifinals against Iran, Qatar pulled off a mighty 3-2 win.
Jordan: W W W L D
Qatar: W W W W W
— AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 (@Qatar2023en) February 7, 2024
A whopping 128 goals have been scored across 50 matches at this year’s tournament. Of these, finalists Jordan have scored the joint-highest (12) along with Iran and Japan. Qatar are joint second on 11 with South Korea.
Jordan have kept a very solid defensive record at this year’s tournament, keeping four clean sheets in their six matches. Qatar, on the other hand, have kept three clean sheets – all of those coming during their group stage.
Champions: $5 million
Runners-up: $3 million
Jordan and Qatar have played each other 23 times across competitive and friendly games. They last met in a friendly in 2018 when Jordan lost 2-0.
Jordan won: 6
Qatar won: 12
Qatar’s predicted starting XI: Yazeed Abu Laila, Abdallah Nasib, Yazan Al-Arab, Bara’ Marie, Ehsan Haddad, Nizar Al-Rashdan, Noor Al-Rawabdeh, Mohammad Abu Hashish, Mousa Al-Tamari, Mahmoud Al-Mardi, Salem Yazan Al-Naimat.
Jordan’s predicted starting XI: Meshaal Barsham, Pedro Miguel, Mohammed Waad, Lucas Mendes, Almoez Ali, Tarek Salman, Jassem Gaber, Hassan Al-Haydos, Akram Afif, Ali Asad, Ahmed Fathi.
𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐝𝐬 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭!
— #AsianCup2023 (@afcasiancup) February 8, 2024