Palestine could make history at the Asian Cup on Tuesday by qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time with victory over Jordan.
In only their second appearance in the finals, Palestine have collected a single point so far but remain in contention for automatic qualification heading into the Abu Dhabi clash.
Victory over their neighbours would lift Noureddine Ould Ali’s side onto four points, enough to secure a place in the last 16 as they can also go through as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Palestine have not won any of their last six matches, though, and have never beaten Group B rivals Jordan in four meetings – losing three – but Ould Ali remains confident they can come away with all three points.
“Our objective is [simply] to win the game, qualify for the knockout phase and make the Palestinian people happy,” said Ould Ali.
“We will be playing against Jordan as if it is a final. We spoke to the players after the game against Australia, and they are now ready and willing to sacrifice everything in order to qualify – something which would be very historic.
“Jordan are a strong team. We have watched their previous games and how they play. However, it is my team’s duty to be ready for every possibility. It is up to us to make the difference, it up to us to qualify.”
Teams yet to concede in the #AsianCup2019:
Who do you think will end the group stage with clean sheets? pic.twitter.com/IUqgaljAav
— #AsianCup2019 (@afcasiancup) January 14, 2019
In stark contrast, the pressure is off Jordan given they are guaranteed top spot in the group after two wins from two.
A third visit to the knockout stages beckons no matter what happens at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, but head coach Vital Borkelmans is keen to keep his squad focused on their next game.
“I never look further than the next match. What comes after that we will see,” the Belgian said.
“It is [currently] important that my team plays well against Palestine, and that we try to perform to the very best of our ability and, in the process, create plenty of chances. We must play as we did against Australia and Syria to show people that we are ready for the Round of 16.
“We are hoping to achieve a good result for our amazing fans, although I have to change some players, and it will be a case of utilising all 23 squad members.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PALESTINE – Nathmi Albadawi
American-born Nathmi Albadawi will look to give Palestine – who are without the suspended Jonathan Zorrilla – control in the midfield after making only his second start in the loss to Australia. The 27-year-old will be part of FC Cincinnati’s debut MLS season after the Asian Cup.
JORDAN – Ahmad Ersan
With star man Mousa Suleiman ruled out having picked up two bookings in the tournament, Ahmad Ersan has the chance to impress for Jordan. The 23-year-old replaced Suleiman in the latter stages of the win over Syria and could be handed a starting role on Tuesday.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Jordan defeated Palestine 5-1 in their only previous meeting at the Asian Cup, in the group stages of the 2015 tournament. It is Jordan’s biggest win to date at the tournament.
– Palestine have lost four of their five games in the Asian Cup (D1), conceding 14 while scoring just once.
– Since their first tournament in 2015, Palestine have failed to score in four different AFC Asian Cup finals matches; more than any other team in this period.
– Jordan have kept back-to-back clean sheets in their last two games in the Asian Cup, winning both.
– Suleiman has been involved in all three of Jordan’s goals at this year’s Asian Cup so far (one goal, two assists) and has also attempted three more shots than any other team-mate at the tournament.
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