What: 2011 Asian Cup Quarter-final
Who: Uzbekistan vs. Jordan
When: Friday, 21st January, 2011, at 16:25 UK Time
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Breakthrough Tournament?

Uzbekistan will have seen it all before when they line up on Friday night to face off against Jordan at the Khalifa International Stadium. After two consecutive Asian Cup exits at this stage, Vadim Abramov’s men are focused on finally advancing from the quarterfinals into the final four of the competition for the first time. And judging by the positive performances the Central Asian side put together during their Group A encounters, Uzbekistan will be the favourites to go where they have never gone before.

Traditionally a side that seems to falter on the big occasion, the Uzbeks appear to much more suited this time to make the breakthrough they hoped they would in 2004 and 2007. In both of those cases, Uzbekistan tasted narrow defeats decided by the smallest details. During this tournament however, everything has gone to plan so far. The team came out on fire and disposed of hosts Qatar rather easily 2-0, then went on to defeat Kuwait by the same scoreline. In the deciding Group A fixture against China, the White Wolves showed character by coming away with the point they needed to qualify after conceding an early strike.

With a capable backline, creative and combative midfield and plenty of firepower in attack this is a side that could go far, perhaps belief and confidence being what they need most at this crucial stage of the competition. Abramov perhaps said it best when he stated that his team’s performance in the competition would rest on the mindset of his personnel. “I think many things depend on the psychology of the players,” said the manager this week and should they get it right on Friday evening there is enough talent on hand to claim a place in the final.

Fairytale Run

In a tournament devoid of a great deal of upsets, Jordan have become the fairytale side of the 2011 Asian Cup. Expected to fight it out for 3rd place in Group B along with Syria, Jordan took advantage of the poor state of Saudi Arabia’s team to book a place in the knockout round. Al Nashama have now equaled their feat at the 2004 Asian Cup, when they made it to the last eight in their first ever appearance in the competition. Iraqi boss Adnan Hamad has put together a tight-knit side that has surprised many observers. Jordan’s performance against Japan in their tournament opener shocked Asian football supporters as the team came away with an impressive 1-1 draw. That was followed up by a 1-0 victory over the Saudis and then a tense 2-1 triumph against neighbors Syria in the final match of the round which sealed qualification.

This is a team that showed enough quality and perseverance with their Group B displays that they will be a formidable side to face in the quarterfinals even if they go in as the underdogs. The one major issue working against the team is a mini-injury crisis. Jordan will be without four first-team players against Uzbekistan as key players such as Basem Fathi (suspended) and Oday Al-Saifi (hamstring), scorer of the winner against Syria, miss out.

Hamad has expressed his admiration for Uzbekistan, but his comments suggest a deep-rooted belief in advancing to the final four of the competition. “We faced Uzbekistan in a friendly a few weeks ago and their coach told me he wanted to meet us in the final. They are a strong and very fast team, but it’s our ambition to reach the semifinals.”


Recent form

Qatar 0-2 Uzbekistan (7/1; Group A, Asian Cup)
Uzbekistan 2-1 Kuwait (12/1; Group A, Asian Cup)
China 2-2 Uzbekistan (16/1; Group A, Asian Cup)

Japan 1-1 Jordan (9/1; Group B, Asian Cup)
Jordan 1-0 Saudi Arabia (13/1; Group B, Asian Cup)
Jordan 2-1 Syria (17/1; Group B, Asian Cup)

Players to watch

Uzbekistan – Server Djeparov: On his day Djeparov is a superb playmaker with the ability to change the course of a match with his passing and goalscoring capabilities. Recently at FC Seoul of the K-League, Djeparov began to rediscover the form that had earned him 2008 Asian Player of the Year honours. The former FC Bunyodkor star was fantastic in the 1st round of the 2011 Asian Cup, running the show for Uzbekistan and providing countless goalscoring opportunities with his pinpoint passing.

Besides his great vision from midfield, Djeparov is also a scoring threat having netted 13 times for his country. If Uzbekistan are to clinch a place in the final four, more than likely it will have a lot to do with the talents of the 28-year-old midfield maestro.

Jordan – Amer Deeb: The 23-year-old has been in fine form during the tournament even if Hamad is playing him further up the pitch than he is used to. Usually a midfielder, Deeb is one of only four players on the current squad to have been a part of Jordan’s only other appearance in the tournament in 2004.

Deeb has made a habit of managing firsts for Jordanian football, becoming the first player from his country to play in the Belgian League when he appeared for KV Mechelen during the 2009/10 season and also succeeding in being the first Jordanian to score in a FIFA competition when he tallied against Zambia during the 2007 U-20 World Cup. A midfielder capable of scoring goals as evidenced by his 14 strikes in 50 matches for Jordan, should Deeb come good against Uzbekistan he may solidify his status as national hero.

Match Prediction

It would come as no surprise if Uzbekistan and Jordan produced a close, hard-fought match in this Asian Cup quarter-final. Uzbekistan will begin as slight favourites as Abramov’s side were so impressive in the Group Stage. The question will be whether Jordan can find answers for the explosive offense of their opponents led so well by the skillful Djeparov. Jordan also have a strong team across the park with perhaps less individual talent, but strength in the collective. The difference may well end up being in the two teams’ depth and due to several injury worries for Hamad’s team; the edge must go to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan 2-0 Jordan.