Saudi Arabia is the first team to crash out of the Asian Football Cup (AFC) in Qatar, after losing to Jordan 0-1 Thursday. The defeat ended the team’s quest for a fourth Asian Cup title, and first since 1996.
Goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah’s mistake sealed Saudi Arabia’s fate, as the kingdom slumped to their second successive defeat following their surprise 2-1 loss to Syria on Sunday.
There looked no danger when Jordan’s Baha Abdelrahman floated in a cross from the right hand side, but Abdullah completely misjudged the flight of the ball and could only watch on in horror as it looped into the net three minutes before half-time.
The result means Saudi Arabia become the first team to bow out of the competition and puts Jordan level on points with Japan at the top of group B.
While Japan needs just a draw in the last group stage match against Saudi Arabia to move to the next round, a win for Jordan will be an automatic ticket for the next round, though a draw will be enough; but Syria must win inorder to get to the next to the round.
Meanwhile, Iran takes on Iraq in Group D, in what will be the most fiercely contested match of the group stage.
The two countries share a border and a bloody recent history, including an eight-year war in the 1980s that is believed to have claimed the lives of up to a million people, according to media reports. Definitely, when the two meet on the football pitch, the results can be explosive.
“It’s considered a derby game, just as (a match with Saudi Arabia) is considered a derby,” Younis Mahmoud, Iraq’s captain and star striker, told reporters after the team had finished training at the Al Gharafa stadium in Doha.
“There were also problems between us and Iran and years of war. So I think it is considered a derby and also a challenge,” Mahmoud said.
The two haven’t played each other on home soil for decades thanks to the almost continuous political instability in both countries over the past 30 years. Both teams reached the final of the West Asian Championship in the Jordanian capital Amman, a warm-up regional tournament before the Asian Cup.
And just before the 2007 game with Iran, the entire Iraqi Olympic Taekwondo team, kidnapped months before, were found buried in a shallow grave on the road to Jordan.
A minute’s silence was held in their honor.
Iran went on to win 2-1, fired up after Iraq’s fans mercilessly booed the national anthem and chanted anti-Iranian songs. In defeat the Iraqi players were devastated. Younis Mahmoud removed his jersey, revealing the map of Iraq tattooed on to his left bicep, and congratulated the fans before thousands spilled out into the Amman night singing and banging their drums.
*Some excerpts of this report came from CNN Sport.