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Observations From Jordan-Palestine in 2015 AFC Asian Cup


Both Jordan and Palestine needed a result Friday morning to give themselves a chance of qualification for the knockout phase.

Of the pair the Jordanians came in with pressure on their shoulders.  They had lost their previous six international matches and had not won in 11.

If that wasn’t enough in the Jordanians were involved in a spat with the tournament’s drug testers accusing them of mistreating striker Ahmad Hayel claiming that the player suffered from hypothermia as a result their actions when they tried to obtain a sample.   Needless to say the test was botched.

The Palestinians on the other hand had the freedom to play as they weren’t expected achieve much in their Asian Cup campaign.  The Palestinian players reflected this relaxed attitude, attacking incessantly.  Unfortunately, for all their effort they came up against an inspired Hamza Al-Dardour who single-handedly took them apart.

The game was summed up succinctly an Australian commentator when he said “all the goals came from Jordan but all the football came from Palestine”.  

Indeed 5-1 doesn’t truly tell the story of this game.

Programming note: For viewers in the United States, the tournament is being shown exclusively on One World Sports and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to One World Sports, you can access the channel via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Sign up for DishWorld via their website.


1. The Palestinians – Spirited but taught a clinical lesson:

What will annoy the Palestine coaching staff and the players was that Jordan didn’t look like scoring in the opening half an hour and the goal, a good one at that, by Yousuf Ahmad was against the run of play.  A minute later Jordan were 2-0 up and from then on the Palestinians were always up against it.

Setting up as a 4-2-3-1 the Palestinians initially played at a high tempo but were smart enough not to expend all their energy in the opening minutes.  Overall they were quick, moved the ball swiftly, mixed up their passing, hunted for possession in packs and created chances with neat interplay.

It could have been so different had Hisham Sahli’s fourth minute effort had not been tipped onto the bar by Amer Shafi.  If they had something to hold onto they could have really tested the mental strength of the Jordanians and hit them on the break.

Crucially, the Palestinians did not build on their good foundations and were made to pay by the devastating finishing of Hamza Al-Dardour.

Palestine will be reflecting on how things might have been had they converted the opportunities they created.  By the time Jaka Hbaisha slotted home, creating history in the process by scoring Palestine’s first ever goal in the Asian Cup, it was too little too late.


2. Hamza Al-Dardour – Jordan’s goal-den boy:

Maybe Jordan’s initial mediocrity was too much for Hamza Al-Dardour who rolled his sleeves up and got his team out of a difficult spot.  He sparked the Jordanians into life by skipping past a couple of Palestinian markers just outside the penalty area before rolling the ball to Yousuf Ahmad who curled in a delicious effort.

He was then on hand to finish off a pair of incisive counter-attacks after the Palestinians had overcommitted.  On both occasions he intelligently peeled off his marker to give himself space help himself to a brace before the end of the first half.

The striker then showed his rapid turn of pace in the second half speeding past the Palestinian defense before slotting home a composed finish to complete the AFC Asian Cup’s first hat-trick.  He amazingly helped himself to a fourth turning in Oday Zahran’s cross from the right.  This was as complete a performance as this tournament has seen from a striker.

It was probably an act of mercy when Al-Dardour was taken off by Ray Wilkins.

That said Jordan must thank their man at the other end for ensuring that the score looked relatively comfortable.


3. Amer Shafi’s keeping comes to the fore:

The score may suggest a comfortable enough game for Jordan but it certainly wasn’t a fair reflection of the match.  That in part was due to the intervention of the Jordanian keeper Amer Shafi.

For all the possession and neat play of the Palestinians they did not test Shafi enough but when they did the keeper came up trumps when it mattered most.

With the game at 0-0 in the fourth minute he produced a wonderful fingertip save to prevent Hisham Salhi’s vicious, swirling effort from going in to keep the score level.  Had Jordan gone behind would they have crumbled under the pressure?  We won’t know as Shafi prevented that question from ever being asked.

In the 51st minute he made another big save to keep Abdulhamid Abuhabib’s effort out. Had that gone in that would have made the score 3-1 and given the Palestinian’s a sniff of a chance.

When Shafi was finally beaten in the 85th minute he had done his bit and still had time to prevent the Palestinians from scoring a second.


4. A little discipline can go a long way for Palestine:

Palestine had eight shots with four of them on target.  Going forward they were inventive, clever and at points thrilling.

However they will need to learn the virtues of discipline as they were clinically taken apart by some quick incisive counter-attacking.  To a degree they decided Jordan’s tactics as Ray Wilkins’ team just needed to sit back, defend and spring forward as the Palestinians overcommitted time and time again.

The defense needs more organization too as they continually left their men and gave away very preventable goals.

It will be a long road for Palestine but they have shown that they are pretty handy going forward.  They will need to work on the defensive side and learn how to balance their playing style.

If they learn their lessons and tighten up their backline they have the potential to develop into a team that can compete at the Asian level.


5. Wilkins’ tactics leave Jordan exposed:

This is one of the stranger things I’ll ever write but this was the most evenly contested 5-1 games that I have ever seen.  If Palestine had an Amer Shafi in goal the outcome could have been totally different.

Ray Wilkins side played a 4-1-3-2 formation and that left them horribly exposed in the wide areas of the midfield.    The Palestinians intelligently spread the play and when the Jordanians overcommitted on one side they switched play quickly to the other flank.

The defending left a lot to be desired whilst they were extremely generous giving the Palestinians too much space and time.

A cannier team would have exploited Jordan’s weaknesses and it’s not surprising that they have failed to win any of their previous 11 matches.

Their goal difference is a lot healthier but the performance is a worry.  Jordan will need to raise their game immensely if they wish to achieve an unlikely result against defending champions Japan.

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