Jordan vs Iraq - a battle for third?

Jordan vs Iraq - a battle for third?

By Bassil Mikdadi

Ahead of the first match day of final round of World Cup Qualifying, the Arabic language press was filled with stories on what an achievement it is to see half of the ten finalists hail from The Peninsula.

Jordan and Iraq battled out a 1-all draw in Amman

Little regard was given to the fact that many of these nations would probably unwittingly conspire to eliminate each other, leaving a very traditional foursome representing the Asian continent in Brazil.

Jordan and Iraq would be the first all-Arab matchup in this fourth round of World Cup Qualifying.

The two sides know each other quite well having already crossed paths in the previous round. Jordan’s manager Adnan Hamad, an Iraqi national, led many of Iraq’s current stars to their first taste of glory at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Facing each other for the fourth time in 11 months there was only one possible result - a draw.

Iraq went up in the 14th minute with Nashat Akram nestling a shot into the bottom right corner of Amer Shafi’s goal. True to form, Jordan didn’t panic nor did they switch their style and were gifted an equalizer when Iraqi keeper Mohammed Gassid bobbled an incoming cross. Ahmed Hayel who has been in fine form with Al-Faisaly this season, was merciless with the finish. If Jordan are to advance though, they will need to be even more opportunistic with their chances against the likes of Japan and Australia.

Both teams went in search of a winner in the second half; it wasn’t a classic by any means but it certainly wasn’t drab.

Thaer Bawab came closest for Al-Nashama but was denied first by his bad decision-making and then by an excellent save. The substitute made a solid claim for a starting spot showing why he was at Real Madrid as a youngster. Absent from the ranks until this match his presence gives Jordan a complement to the Hassan Abdelfattah; the team’s only true dynamic player.

Despite both teams experiencing a revival of fortune there are more questions than answers for both Iraq and Jordan. Iraq will be desperately disappointed at having gifted such a sloppy equalizer. For their part, Jordan cannot be happy about dropping two points at home.

Despite both sets of fans being unhappy it seems that both managers have set theirs sights on third place and were unwilling to change their original game plans. Jordan continued to play 4-2-3-1 and Zico didn’t make a change until the 88th minute ignoring Hawar Mulla Mohammed’s lackluster display.

Adnan Hamad has stated that his aim was for 12 points. He wanted to collect four from the encounters against Ausralia and Japan and another eight from the clashes against Oman and Iraq. It will be interesting to see how effective Hamad’s tactics are against Australia and Japan.

As for the Lions of Mesopotamia, there are still a host of questions to be answered: Will Zico extend his contract? Can Iraq cope without a home field advantage to exploit? Can they recapture the magic that made them continental champions in 2007?

Stay tuned to find out.

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