Asian football expert John Duerden assesses the Socceroos' opponents Jordan ahead of Friday morning (AEDT) blockbuster clash in Amman between the two top-placed Group B nations.
There are three reasons why Jordan is feeling confident ahead of the vital FIFA Russia World Cup 2018™ clash with Australia on Thursday night (Friday morning AEDT).
The first is the goal-scoring form of brilliant forward Hamza Al Dardour, the second is an encouraging 3-0 warm-up win over Iraq and the third is recent history.
It's a big game for both.
If Australia win in Amman and top spot in the group will be hard to prise from Socceroo hands. Five points clear with four to go, three of which are at home would give Ange Postecoglou's men a foot in the final round.
For Jordan, three points means a leap-frog into first.
Much will depend on a man who is becoming one of West Asia's biggest stars. Al Dardour has really come into his own in 2015 with seven goals so far. Six of those are significant for Australia. Four came in one memorable game at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Melbourne. Al Dardour ran riot in a 5-1 thrashing of Palestine in the group stage.
All his qualities were on show against the tournament debutant as then Jordan coach Ray Wilkins told reporters.
"I think you saw today what his assets are. He's got blistering pace, and when in front of goal, he'll stick it in the back of the net.
“He's very composed. His pace will scare people because he is that quick. I'm sure he could do whatever he desires to do, to be perfectly honest."
The Saudi-based star was an out-and-out striker in a fine 3-0 win over Iraq in a friendly at the weekend, scoring twice.
Both goals carried the mark of a goalscorer in fine form. The first saw Al-Darfour nip in front of a green-shirted defender to poke a knockdown into the net from close range.
The second was all about the timing and the finish. The 24 year-old ran on to a ball lobbed over the Iraqi backline and hit it first time from the edge of the area past Nour Sabri in goal. It was also encouraging how he is linking up with Abdullah Deeb, the source of many a Jordan goal over the years.
“It was a fine team performance but the way he scored the goals was very pleasing,” said Jordan's Belgian coach Paul Put after the game. “He scares defenders and always gives us a threat in attack.”
Since taking the job in June, the Belgian has been trying to get his charges to move the ball faster and introduce more variety in attack.
At the back, he is focusing on eliminating the mistakes that had been evident in the games so far. Jordan's seven points have come from away wins in Bangladesh and Tajikistan while the only home game so far was a disappointing goalless draw against Kyrgyzstan.
For a team that is strong at home, this is slightly unusual.
So the performance against Iraq was very pleasing as Jordan looked solid at the back and dangerous going forward. The opposition may have been missing some players and are traditionally a team that can blow very hot and cold when it comes to friendlies but Jordan was not at full strength either and missing stars such as experienced defenders Hassan Abdel-Fattah and Ibrahim Al-Zawahreh, midfielder Munther Abu Amarah, forward Yousef Al-Rawashdeh and legendary goalkeeper Amer Shafi.
Shafi has been struggling for fitness but is expected to be in place between the sticks. He remembers 2012 and would love nothing more than a repeat.
“Nothing is impossible...yes, Australia are a very strong team and boast quality players, but this should only motivate us to perform well and achieve the best possible result. “It was a historic game and the first time we’d played them.
“We’ve beaten them before and have the motivation and spirit to do it again.”
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