The AFC Asian Cup final will take place on Saturday when the tournament hosts Qatar look to make a successful defence of the title when they go up against a Jordan outfit who will be competing for the trophy for the first time in their history.
Qatar have made it through unscathed so far and look the team to beat but Jordan have been written off for much of the competition but they are still here fighting and will surely give their all on the biggest day in their footballing history.
You have to give it to Jordan. In a competition which looked to have a number of leading contenders at the outset of it, it is they, the 100/1 outsiders before a ball was kicked in the tournament, who have made it through to the final and the biggest compliment you can pay them is that they fully deserve to be here. They took a while to get going in the group stage but there is an argument to say they have been the best team in the knockout phase and now they are 90 minutes from glory.
Prior to this week, Jordan had never been past the quarter finals of this event but they took care of South Korea in ruthless fashion in the semi-final to set up this chance for glory. They probably don’t have the eye catching players that the top nations in Asia have but they have a team framework which has served them well and if they can get their way into this final they will feel they can pull off the unbelievable upset the longer the game goes on.
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Unlike their opponents in this final, Qatar went into the tournament with all the pressure and expectation on them. The pressure came from being the defending champions and the expectation came from being on home soil in the event. In the early stages of the competition they breezed through but as you would expect, the longer the event has gone on they have just found things a little more difficult, but they have made it through to the final in their title defence.
Qatar were involved in a tremendous semi-final against Iran where they rode their luck a little but eventually got over the line and they will be looking to use the experience of winning the last tournament to their advantage here. Their players are used to playing on the big stage after they hosted the World Cup 15 months ago and that feels like it could be significant given the inexperienced nature of their opponents.
I expect Jordan to give a fair show of themselves in this final and I wouldn’t be surprised if Qatar have to survive a few hairy moments but I do think the defending champions will keep hold of their crown. I just think that extra class in the attacking areas will be the difference in this match. Jordan have had a brilliant run but they rode their luck in the round of 16 when they needed two injury time goals to beat Iraq, an own goal saw them through the quarter final against Tajikistan and South Korea just didn’t show up in the semi-final.
For all that Jordan have been good in this tournament, I can’t get over the fact that the two best players on the pitch are going to be Akram Afif, who has leading claims for being the player of the competition, and Almoez Ali, who is the one player on the pitch who can be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net. This is a huge day for Jordan but it is plenty big enough for Qatar too as they go in search of a win on home soil. I think Qatar just have too much firepower in this one.
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