Few would have given Jordan a chance of reaching the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 when they left for India to take part in the AFC Youth Championship.

After all, not only was it their first-ever appearance in the finals, they had been widely adjudged fortunate even to have made it that far, having only overcome preliminary rivals Qatar and Bahrain by a marginally superior goal difference.

With the 11-time champions Korea Republic, hosts India and Kyrgyzstan all waiting their section, making it out of the group stage would have been success enough, but in the end they made it all the way to the semi-finals after a shock 2-1 victory over China granted them a golden ticket to Canada.

That win meant that Jordan will be represented for the first time at a FIFA world event; another major achievement two years on from the Jordanian senior team making their debut at the AFC Asian Cup finals in China.

Back in their homeland, the achievement was met with a mixture of pride and delight, with the national media quick to acclaim the country's new heroes.

'An outstanding achievement for the Jordanian youth team,' proclaimed the headline on the Al Arab Al Yawm newspaper, while another daily publication, Al-Dostour, hailed 'The youth team of Jordan, the pride of our nation'. Al Rai'i gleefully pointed out that Jordan proved the only side capable of denying the east Asian nations all four tickets to Canada, and claimed that their young team had taken Jordanian football "from the wilderness to the international arena".

Thousands of fans took to the streets of Amman to celebrate the win over China, as car horns sounded and Jordanian flags flew from vehicle windows. Then, on the team's return to the capital, thousands of loyal fans flocked to greet them in a warm ceremony paying tribute to their remarkable achievement.

'Still much to learn'
Zuriekat Fadi, president of the Jordan Football Association (JFA), was at the head of this official reception at the Queen Alia International Airport, and he congratulated the players, pointing out the role that the planning and investment of his association had played in the accomplishment. "Our duty now is to support this team and take care of these young players who represent the future of the game in our country," Zuriekat added.

Indeed, putting words into action, the JFA has already started planning for the team's pre-Canada preparations. First up will come the Doha Asian Games next month and then, in March of next year, they will take part in an U-20 international championship in Portugal that is likely to provide a decent gauge of their prospects at the FIFA U-20 World Cup itself.

So enthused is Jordan with its young heroes, in fact, that many voices within the country and in the media have gone as far as suggesting that the youth team, rather than its senior equivalent, represent the country in all competitions.

However, the team's Danish coach, Jan Poulsen, has been quick to laugh off such suggestions, pointing out that he has "a promising side, but with many things to learn".

The 52-year old, who also previously served as the U-21 coach of Denmark, has urged the federation to organise the U-20 league in a systematic manner that would allow his young players to participate regularly in a domestic competitive competition. He has also asked for an increase in the number of residential training centres in the country.

Whatever happens, and though another surprise in Canada might seem too much to ask, all the signs are that the future for Jordanian football looks to be very bright indeed.