(MENAFN- Jordan Times) AMMAN — Jordan's national U-23 team will play Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in the final of the 2021 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) U-23 Championship.
Jordan reached the final for the first time after eliminating Syria 5-2 as Saudi Arabia beat Iraq 1-0 in the other semifinal.
The first edition of the WAFF U-23 Championship was held in Qatar in 2015 and won by Iran, before they moved to the Central Asian Football Association. Jordan was eliminated in the group stage.
The current second edition, being held in the cities of Dammam and Al Khobar, has 11 teams playing in three groups. The top team from each of the three groups moved on to the semis alongside the best second placed team.
Jordan beat Kuwait and Yemen 2-1 and lost to Oman 1-0 in Group A matches.
Group B included Iraq, Palestine, the UAE and Lebanon, while Group C had Saudi, Syria and Bahrain.
Jordan lately played Syria in two friendlies beating their guests 1-0 and drawing 2-2 in the second.
The WAFF Championship is part of final preparations for the Asian U-23 qualifiers in which Jordan will play in Group F against Turkmenistan on October 25 and Palestine on October 30. The top team will move to the U-23 Asian Championship in Uzbekistan in June 2022.
The U-23 squad reached the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship four times: In 2014 they finished third, in 2016 they reached the quarterfinals, in 2018, they were knocked out of Round 1 and in 2020 they reached the quarter-finals of the 4th AFC U-23 Championship — a qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In Asian qualifiers prior to the halt in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Kingdom's other national teams were eliminated in Asian competitions in 2019. The U-16 squad failed to advance to the U-16 AFC Championship which serves as a qualifier for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. In the earlier edition, Jordan had bowed out of the Round 1 of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship. Similarly, the U-16 women's squad failed to advance to the AFC U-16 Women's Championship.
In the U-19 category, women's and men's teams were also eliminated from qualifiers for the AFC Championship. The U-19 men's team had impressive results in five past editions. The best performance came when they finished fourth in 2006 and advanced to the FIFA Youth World Cup in Canada in 2007. They exited the first round in 2008, 2010 and 2018. They reached the quarters in 2012. This was the third time Jordan failed to qualify after 2014 and 2016.
National football team plays Uzbekistan
Meanwhile, Jordan's senior national team plays 84th ranked Uzbekistan on Tuesday in the final match of their local training camp as they prepare for the FIFA Arab Cup — Qatar 2021, in December.
Jordan beat world 154th ranked Malaysia 4-0 in the first friendly of the three-nation tournament as Uzbekistan beat Malaysia 5-1.
The squad's performance has come under scrutiny by observers especially after Jordan lost to little known Haiti 2-0 and managed a 2-1 win over Bahrain last month. Haiti lost 6-1 to Bahrain in the first friendly tourney since Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad took over after the removal of Belgian Vital Borkelmans following the early exit from the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Jordan now needs to go through another stage of qualifying to get to the 2023 Asian Cup.
Jordan will play in Group C alongside, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Palestine in the FIFA Arab Cup. In the preliminary round qualifier, Jordan overcame South Sudan on a technicality after the latter was forced to forfeit the match with over six members of the squad contracting COVID-19.
The Kingdom has taken part in past eight Arab Cups and hosted the 1988 edition. Iraq are record Arab Cup titleholders in 1964, 1966 1985 and 1988. Saudi Arabia won in 1998 and 2002, Tunisia in 1963, Egypt in 1992 and Morocco in 2012.
In latest FIFA Rankings, Jordan was up to 93rd and 14th in Asia lagging behind relatively uncompetitive Asian teams compared to their best ranking of 37th in 2004.
The team is scheduled to hold a training camp and play Kosovo on November 10 and Belarus on November 16.
Looking back at the Jordan's peak performance, the team was on the verge of qualifying to the 2014 World Cup for the first time and advanced to play then World's 6th ranked Uruguay in an intercontinental qualifying tie. the World Cup qualifying Round 3 was the furthest Jordan reached in the past seven times since taking part the 1986 qualifiers.
In the Asian Cup, Jordan has reached the tournament four times since first taking part in qualifiers in 1972. The highlight was at the 13th Asian Cup in 2004, when they lost to Japan in the quarter-finals and jumped to the best ever FIFA Ranking of 37th. They also reached the Asian Cup in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
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