Jordan make dreams come true to reach first Asian Cup final

Jordanians celebrated the night away from Doha to Amman as their team reached their first Asian Cup final.

Jordan vs South Korea – AFC Asian Cup semifinal
Jordan's supporters were delirious at full-time after their team beat South Korea 2-0 to win the first Asian Cup 2023 semifinal [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Qatar – A simple message from Jordan’s coach Hussein Ammouta – “go and have fun” – helped deliver one of the most famous wins for Jordan as they brushed aside Asian football giants South Korea on their way to their first Asian Cup final.

A goal each from Yazan Al Naimat and Musa Tamari saw Jordan beat South Korea 2-0 in the first semifinal of the Asian Cup 2023 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday night.

“Our coach gave us the confidence and tactical discipline we needed to come through against our opponents,” Tamari, who was also named player of the match, told reporters after the game.

He was also quick to acknowledge and thank the thousands of fans who vociferously supported his team against the mighty South Korean side.

“All Arab fans stood with us and it made a big difference tonight,” Tamari said.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of the spectators at the packed venue were chanting and clapping for an-Nashama – “the chivalrous gentlemen” – as they overcame a shaky start in the first half to emerge victorious against the Taegeuk Warriors at the end of 90 minutes.

While Jordan’s nickname may indicate politeness as one of the team’s traits, the players did not pay much heed to South Korea’s reputation and the difference in their FIFA rankings.

South Korea are ranked 23rd in the world, and third in the continent, compared to Jordan’s 87th rank in the world and 13th in Asia.

“I told the players they must not respect the opponent more than what is necessary,” Ammouta said in his post-match press conference.

The Moroccan coach of the Jordanian side was trying to explain how his players were able to look past the big names on the South Korean side and simply focus on the job at hand.

“Once we realised that they [South Korea] have some weaknesses that we could exploit, we set about finding ways to score against them,” Ammouta said.

Jordan vs South Korea – AFC Asian Cup semifinal
Jordan’s Musa Al Tamari was named the player of the match in the semifinal [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Both of Jordan’s goals came in the second half as the Arab side came out of the blocks all guns blazing after a nervy and cautious first half.

When Al Naimat scored the opening goal in the 53rd minute, their supporters cheered wildly but soon returned to willing their team on.

Tamari’s beautiful finish eight minutes later was simply too much for the crowd to handle. They brought out their red keffiyehs and swung them wildly above their heads in disbelief. Children clapped merrily, while older fans wiped away tears of joy.

From thereon, there was no looking back for either an-Nashama or their supporters.

Despite South Korea’s attempts to get back into the game, there was simply no way for the Taegeuk Warriors to march past the Jordanian defence.

Son Heung-min put all his experience and skills to use as he made several runs from the halfway line, but could not find any miraculous last-minute goals that had seen his side overturn deficits in their previous two matches.

South Korea’s German coach Jurgen Klinsmann famously said after their comeback quarterfinal win against Australia that perhaps his team should start all matches a goal down, so they could fight their way back to a win.

However, it was simply too big an ask against a disciplined and determined Jordanian midfield and defence.

“I am angry that we lost and upset with the result,” Klinsmann said after the match when he was questioned why he continued to smile despite losing.

The German World Cup winner will be the subject of further questioning once the team returns home and resumes its 2026 World Cup qualification campaign.

Jordan vs South Korea – AFC Asian Cup semifinal
Jordan players celebrate after winning the match [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, Jordan’s coach Ammouta said his men will have to put the celebrations on hold until Saturday’s final, where they play the winner of the second semifinal between holders and hosts Qatar and contenders Iran.

“We are growing more ambitious with every win and we must seize the initiative to win [the final],” he said.

At the full-time whistle, Ammouta ran onto the pitch with Moroccan and Jordanian flags to celebrate the achievement with his players.

Tamari, who is arguably the biggest name on the Jordanian side, said the win meant “everything” to him and his teammates.

“I was dreaming about this moment, of being in the final, a month ago when I was with my club in France,” he said with a grin.

In three days, the number 10 and the other 10 Jordanian “gentlemen” can go one step beyond the dream and give themselves a shot at lifting the Asian Cup title for the first time.

But last night, an-Nashama and their fans sang and danced everywhere – from Doha’s Souq Waqif to Amman’s city centre.

Jordanians fans celebrate in Amman [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]
Jordanians celebrate in Amman [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera