Joyous Jordan riding high on first shock of Asian Cup

  • Jordan kicked off their Asian Cup campaign with a surprise victory over title holders Australia
  • Anas Bani Yaseen, scorer of the winning goal, talks about the significance of the win
  • Jordan captain Amer Shafi explains why he shed tears after the game

Jordan caused the first major upset of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 when they stunned Australia 1-0 in a thrilling match at Al Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in their Group B opener on Sunday.

Although set-piece plays are considered one of the Socceroos’ strengths, it was Jordan who profited from one for the only goal of the game, as centre-back Anas Bani Yaseen outjumped everyone to send a powerful header past keeper Mat Ryan after a short corner.

After saluting the fans on the final whistle, the players returned to the dressing rooms to celebrate with traditional Jordanian songs lauding courage and fighting spirit, two characteristics that were perfectly exemplified on the field by Vital Borkelmans’ men.

‘The most valuable goal of my career’

Before continuing their joyful celebrations at the hotel, the Jordanians appeared in the mixed zone with huge smiles on their faces, in contrast to the Socceroos, who could scarcely believe they had begun the defence of their title with such a spectacular defeat.

“This is certainly the most valuable goal of my career,” man of the match Anas Bani Yaseen told “It helped us achieve something great today. It earned us this victory and puts us in a good position in the group, as we now have a good chance of qualifying for the next round,” added the delighted centre-back.

“This win has boosted our confidence. We were keen to dispel the doubts that were raised [about the team] ahead of the tournament. For me, it is a “gift” to coach Vital, who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to be here with the team and start this game, despite the injury I suffered and my lack of playing time with my club.”

“Every time I pull on the national team jersey, I do my very best to honour the Jordanian flag. This is an honour not only for me, but also for all my team-mates,” continued the 30-year-old defender. “Jordanians always battle hard in these major competitions. That was the case [at the Asian Cups] in China in 2004 and Qatar in 2011. And now, at UAE 2019, we want to follow in the footsteps of those earlier generations.”

Formidable challenge

Skipper Amer Shafi is one of the veterans of the team, having appeared in all three of his country’s Asian Cup participations and featured in their 11 tournament fixtures to date. The towering goalkeeper made a number of decisive stops against Australia and successfully marshalled his defence. After the final whistle, the 36-year-old was carried on his team-mates’ shoulders, as he burst into tears amid the joyous celebrations.

“We knew it’d be a tough opening game against the defending champions. I think very few people expected us to achieve this result,” said Shafi. “I felt a lot of pressure at the start of the game, but with each save I saw our chances of keeping a clean sheet grow. On hearing the final whistle and securing the win, I couldn’t control myself and burst into tears, with a feeling of joy lifting all the pressure.”

After the first matchday, Jordan lead Group B on three points, followed by Syria and Palestine with a point apiece after their draw, while the Aussies prop up the group. Having overcome what on paper looked like their toughest group opponent, Jordan are now confidently looking forward to their next challenge – their 10 January meeting with Syria what will be a “Levant derby”.

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