2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

12 June - 13 July

2014 FIFA World Cup™

Déjà vu for Jordan as Uruguay tie looms

© Foto-net

The countdown has begun in earnest now, with just seven days to go before the first leg of the intercontinental play-off for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Amman will be the venue for the opening fixture next Wednesday as Asian representatives Jordan get to grips with South American rivals Uruguay.

Unsurprisingly, the crunch tie has got the whole of Jordan talking. The debate has focused on whether Al-Nashama will be up to the task when the first whistle blows, while many supporters have also been paying close attention to the form of fearsome Uruguay strike duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.

The only previous meeting between teams from the two nations has not gone unnoticed either, the South Americans coming out on top in a group stage game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Making their first appearance in that competition, Jordan nonetheless gave an excellent account of themselves in a historic match.

Many of the players who featured that day will also be representing Jordan in the play-offs, though this time they will be carrying the hopes of seven million fellow countrymen and women on their shoulders. With time ticking down on next week's opener, FIFA.com asked several members of Jordan's senior side who faced Uruguay in 2007 to share their memories of that match and their thoughts on La Celeste.

Looking back
Jordan and Uruguay had their one and only meeting in the second round of group games at Canada 2007, when both sides went into the encounter after starting off with draws. The Uruguayans had begun their bid by holding Spain 2-2 while Jordan had played out a 1-1 stalemate with Zambia, an encouraging result that nonetheless required a convincing follow-up performance.

Their chance came at Swangard Stadium, situated in the leafy surroundings of Central Park in Burnaby, where the Asian contenders matched their opponents for 40 minutes, keeping Suarez and Cavani quiet.

It was the current Paris Saint-Germain striker who finally made the difference, though, racing onto a lofted pass into the area and driving the ball into the net. It was the only goal of the game and it proved a crucial one, booking Uruguay their place in the next round despite a loss to Zambia in their final group outing.

One half of a central-defensive duo with Ibrahim Zawahreh that day, Jordan's Anas Bani Yaseen has not forgotten his meeting with Cavani. "We didn't know him very well," explained the defender, reputed for his physical presence and aerial prowess. "We'd noticed Cavani and Suarez in their first match against Spain, when each of them got a goal.

"I was a centre-back so I had to take care of Cavani, who was playing up front. Zawahreh and I dealt with him a number of times, but it just took a ball over the top for him to score. We weren't very experienced at the time.

"We did everything to not let him score again and we were able to contain him in the second half. Today, he's a great goalscorer in Europe. We know him well and we'll have an eye on him at all times to stop him from scoring."

For his part, Zawahreh also feels Jordan can take encouragement from that match six years ago. "It was our first appearance in an international tournament," he said. "I hadn't disputed the Asian Cup with the others, but during our preparations I clicked well with Anas. We played a great game against Zambia.

"The match against Uruguay was always going to be tough because of the South American style of play, based on technique and speed. Looking back, I'm proud of our performance in that game and I hope we'll be able to repeat it. We'll make every effort to ensure we do."

Zawahreh is currently working on his preparations for the play-offs, while Bani Yaseen is recovering from injury and hopes to be fit in time for the second leg on 20 November. Jordan's first-choice defence also contains the versatile Adnan Hasan – another player who took on Uruguay in 2007 – and Mohammad Aldmeiri, who missed the trip to Canada through injury. Aldmeiri will be suspended for the opening instalment but will be available again for the decider in Montevideo.

Suleiman ready in midfield
Midfield pairing Baha Suleiman and Ala Al Bashir have been impressing for their country since Jordan first established a U-20 side in 2005, and they both played leading roles in sealing the team's historic spot at Canada 2007.

From there, they earned promotion to the senior line-up, where Suleiman has tied down a starting berth in recent years, helping the side in every area of the pitch and even scoring in the third round victory against China PR. He suffered a serious heel injury at the start of the year and missed much of the qualifying process, but he returned to action at the start of the season and has fought his way back into the Jordan team.

"I was absent for a very long time," he said. "I watched the games from the stands and was a bundle of nerves each time. We now face an important match against Uruguay. Nothing is impossible in football, and we have the right to dream.

"We'll need to make sure we're patient to achieve our goal. When I look back at the game against them in Canada, it makes me realise that hard work and effort alone make the difference. That's still the case today. It's true that they have a rich history and star players, but we have to show courage and not be afraid of them."

Need to attack
While the players all agree that a defensive approach will give Jordan their best chance against Uruguay, the Asian challengers will also need to attack, repeating the kinds of quick, fluid moves that served them so well against Japan and Australia.

For that to happen, they will require stand-out displays from more forward-thinking players such as Abdallah Salim, who shone at U-20 level before successfully making the step up to the senior team. At Canada 2007, he struck the equaliser against Zambia and was also on target against Spain, as well as hitting the crossbar in the Uruguay game.

"We were very intimidated at the start of the World Cup, but after drawing with Zambia we wanted to get a positive result against Uruguay," he recalled. "I remember that we played very well going forward and hit the woodwork twice. One of my shots from mid-range came back off the bar. We could quite easily have managed to get a draw.

"All the forwards in the national side know that we'll be up against great defenders who are used to facing the best strikers in the world," he added. "That won't prevent us from trying our luck, though. We'll have to make the most of playing at home, in front of our own supporters.

"Our main weapon will be our motivation against prestigious opponents who have won the World Cup and are among the best teams in the world. All the players selected by the coach for these two matches will give their all. We have to believe because everything is possible in football."

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