Australia and Iran were expected to achieve routine victories in Amman and Beirut in the fourth round of Asian Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Instead, they were stunned 2-1 by Jordan and 1-0 by Lebanon respectively to significantly complicate their hopes of making it.
Naturally, the Socceroos and Team Melli have come in for criticism back home. With the Jordanians and Lebanese being showered in praise, FIFA.com reflects on the Asian media’s reaction to the latest action in the continent’s preliminary competition.
Pressure on for big guns
In an article entitled 'Poor showing as Socceroos lose to Jordan’, the country's leading newspaper, The Australian, surmised that Holger Osieck's team have much to do if they are to qualify for Brazil 2014.
It read: "Hassan Abdel Fattah and Amer Deeb's second-half strikes sealed Australia's fate overnight when the Socceroos were ultimately unable to match the unrelenting intensity of their less-fancied opponents. Archie Thompson's late strike - his second goal in as many games - was all Australia had to celebrate on an evening when their treacherous World Cup journey was underlined emphatically."
Osieck, speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, said his men had nobody to blame but themselves. "We never could get into our normal rhythm," said the German. "We played a lot of long balls and there was not enough movement in midfield. We could have scored, but when we can't capitalise then you can't blame anybody else but us."
Also under fire is Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, whose side fell to Roda Antar's first-half strike in a game they largely dominated. Disappointed by the result, Iransportspress.com made its feelings clear in a piece entitled ‘Team Melli suffers its first-ever defeat against Lebanon’.
It labelled the game as "one of the most forgettable results in Iran’s football history", because "Iran showed a very weak and disappointing performance".
Lebanon, Jordan earn the plaudits
The producers of those aforementioned upsets came in for high praise from their own media.
‘Al-Nashama regain the spirit’ was the top headline in Al Rai, Jordan's leading newspaper. "The defeat of Australia is a good sign as the campaign reaches the halfway mark.”
Addustour, the country’s oldest newspaper, hailed the achievement as "A gift to the nation. Our national team outplayed the Socceroos and the victory sees our World Cup hopes revived."
In Lebanon, the Aliwaa newspaper paid tribute to Antar and goalkeeper Abbas Hassan, both of whom were instrumental as they stunned Iran. "The duo led our team to a history-making win against Iran.”
The Assafir newspaper, meanwhile, pointed out that "the national team have restored the lost credibility with the Iran win".
The Al Akhbar newspaper, for its part, revealed optimism in Lebanon’s chances of reaching the next FIFA World Cup: "Coach Theo Bucker silenced the critics with the win. The victory has revived our hopes and established our place among Asia's big boys. The team showed they are capable of reaching Brazil 2014."