Jordan stole the show in Asia's first round of qualifying for the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™ played in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The west Asian side dominated the five-team AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifying tournament over the last week to book a comfortable passage to the second qualifying stage in June.
Joining the Jordanians in advancing to the next round are a pair of central Asian sides, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, who finished ahead of Palestine and Maldives. Jordan though will now have to face Chinese Taipei, who have a long history in the women's game, plus Myanmar in Group A in the next round.
Uzbekistan will lock horns with Thailand and Iran in Group B, with the final group pitting Kyrgyzstan with Hong Kong, and also Vietnam, who impressed in last year's AFC Women's Asian Cup as hosts. The three top finishers will join DPR Korea, China, Japan, Australia and Korea Republic at the Asian showpiece in May 2010, which also serves as the final qualification phase for Germany 2011.
Having twice won the West Asian Championship in 2005 and 2007, coach Maher Abu Hantash will be content that his charges transformed their recent regional success to the continental stage. Jordan got their campaign off to a dream start as they pulled off a 7-1 triumph over Kyrgyzstan. Inspired by the opening win, the west Asian side put Maldives to the sword in the next game, firing nine unanswered goals past the Indian Ocean nation to strengthen their hold on the standings.
Even a resilient Palestine caused few problems with the Jordanians running out 5-0 winners to book progression with a game to spare. Jordan then went on to draw against the strongly-favoured Uzbekistan 2-2 in the closing fixture to finish top ahead of the central Asians on goal differences.
Like Jordan, Uzbekistan also made light work of their opening three outings, easing past both Maldives and Palestine 5-0 before dispatching Kyrgyzstan 2-0 to secure their spot in the next round. Despite the opening defeat to Jordan, Kyrgyzstan bounced back to see off Palestine 4-1 to keep their hopes alive. After losing the penultimate game to Uzbekistan, they rallied to overcome Maldives 2-0 in the all-important last game to seal progression.
Young guns on song
A host of young talent announced their emergence at senior level through some impressive displays. Prime amongst the best players on show were Jordanian scoring prodigies Stephanie Al Naber and Maysa Jbarah, who both initially showed glimpses of their abilities on the continental stage during the 2006 AFC U-19 Women's Championship. Aside from pulling strings in midfield, 21-year-old Al Naber struck nine times to top the scoring chart, while the 19-year-old striker Jbarah netted seven.
One of the campaign's biggest revelations was Kyrgyzstan's 13-year-old striker Alina Litvinenko, who raised quite a few eyebrows across the continent by completing a hat-trick in her sides' decisive 4-1 win over Palestine. Uzbekistan owed thanks to their veteran captain Nargiza Abdurasulova with the 29-year-old hitting the back of the net eight times to help her side through to the next stage.