Jordan told to have no fear against Australia ahead of Al-Ain clash

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Jordan will be out to make life tough for the Socceroos. (AFP)
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Updated 05 January 2019

Jordan told to have no fear against Australia ahead of Al-Ain clash

  • Belgian coach Vital Borkelmans tells team they can shock defending champions.
  • Socceroos warned they cannot take anything for granted.

LONDON: Jordan must believe they can beat Australia if they are to have a chance of winning their opening clash today.
That is the message from coach
Vital Borkelmans, whose side head into the Group B match on the back of a run of form that has seen them win just once since last May. As if that was not bad enough they have to face the defending champions in Al-Ain — the age-old mantra of making sure you do not lose your first match of a tournament doubtless not far from their minds.
But since the new coach took his seat in the dugout in October, there has been some encouragement. A 2-1 victory against India and a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia were both cause for optimism. And even if those results were followed by defeats to Kyrgyzstan and Qatar — slightly tempered by a draw against China — Borkelmans, below, is clearly a glass-half-full kind of guy as he was only stressing the positives ahead of Jordan’s crunch clash against the Socceroos.
“My team is ready physically and mentally and tomorrow they will hopefully make a good game like they did in Qatar and make a lot of chances as we did against China, Kyrgyzstan and Qatar,” the Belgian said. “They made a lot of chances and it’s very important they continue to do so and one day it will change, and maybe that will be (against Australia).”

If there is an obvious Achilles heel, it is a lack of goals. During the pre-tournament training camp in Qatar they scored just once in their three matches. It is hard to see Jordan troubling an Australia side that, despite missing key players through injury, still enter the tournament as one of the big favorites.
“Australia (are) very good, they were at the World Cup and the experience they have at the Asian Cup is amazing,” the coach said.
“For us, we are preparing for every game, not only Australia is very important. (We have) games against Syria and Palestine. There are three Arab teams in this group, so this is a special group.
“This tournament is so special, for every team and every country the start is always dangerous and every team is scared to lose.”
The Socceroos would do well, however, to not take Jordan lightly. While much has changed since the sides met in qualifying the Aussies will be only too aware that they were beaten by the Middle East team 2-0 in Amman before gaining revenge 5-1 in the return in Sydney.
Perhaps because of that Australia coach Graham Arnold has told his players that reputation will count for nothing come kick-off. The Socceroos may be defending champions, but the message being delivered from the dugout is that if they fail to bring their A-game, anything could happen.
“(Winning the title four years ago) is a great memory, but we’re totally focused on what’s in front of us,” Arnold said. “We can’t do anything about the past and what’s in front of us is the Asian Cup. For the players it’s time to get the show started. Everyone’s been talking about it for a long time and we’ve prepared for it and we’re ready.”
Arnold confirmed Mathew Leckie will not be fit enough to play after sustaining a hamstring injury in the build-up to the tournament, but he remains hopeful the Hertha Berlin winger will return soon.
“He’s coming along really well,” Arnold said. “Obviously it’s one game at a time and we’ve really thrown our belief behind him, and he has a strong will to be with us. He’s worked hard and at this minute he’s only out for the first game. We’ll reassess for the second.”

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

‘I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,’ Cristiano Ronaldo said. (Photo/General Sports Authority)
Updated 44 min 27 sec ago

Juventus crowned Italian Super Cup champions

  • Ronaldo’s glancing header sinks AC Milan 1-0 at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City Stadium

JEDDAH: A historic Wednesday evening at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium saw Italian champions Juventus beat AC Milan in the final of the 31st annual Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal as Juventus lifted the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time since 2015 with a 1-0 victory in front of a sold-out 61,235-capacity crowd.

As only one should expect when two of the most successful Italian clubs go head to head, a tactical and elegant, albeit very physical, display of football was at hand. 

Cheerful roars from the Jeddah crowd resonated throughout the night, in the kind of buzzing atmosphere that only a cup final brings.

Juventus, the Serie A champions, began brightly and were the first side to settle into the game, threatening with frequent sweeping moves.

Juventus and Portuguese international Joao Cancelo could have opened the scoring in the 16th minute after being played through on goal, but the defender’s zooming effort lacked the necessary precision and whisked past the far post with the Milan keeper rooted in his spot.

A maddening crescendo of noise erupted when Juventus and French international Blaise Matuidi thought he had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute after being played through by Costa before being flagged offside. 

Juventus did not have too much longer for another opportunity though, with Ronaldo’s acrobatic half volley from just outside the six-yard box bouncing and nestling agonizingly just over the bar and sparing Donnarumma’s blushes in the process.

Christiano Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his last seven finals. (Reuters)

Milan, who qualified for the final as runners-up to Juventus in last season’s Coppa Italia, had struggled throughout the first half to settle into the game. They gradually grew into their own though, and nearly broke the deadlock at the stroke of halftime with a stinging drive from Turkish international Hakan Calhanoglu.

After a slew of opportunities had Juventus failing to build a halftime lead, Milan nearly made them pay for their squandered chances by starting the second half like bats out of hell. 

Milan’s confident pressing start to the half was almost rewarded in the 47th minute when a Ronaldo tackle inadvertently set up Cutrone with a clear sight on goal.  The striker turned and blasted an effort that rattled off the crossbar — the closest either team had come thus far.

And just when the tide seemed to have turned for Milan in the second half, their confidence building with every minute, a perfectly floating cross from Pjanic found Ronaldo with yards of space, and he made no mistake directing a swift header into the back of the net in the 61st minute and sending Juve supporters into a frenzy.

• AS IT HAPPENED: Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gives Juventus Supercoppa Italiana victory over AC Milan in Jeddah >>

• Arab News Matchday gallery >>

Things went from bad to worse for Milan in the 73rd minute. Franck Kessie came rushing in with a recklessly timed tackle, crunching his studs into the shins of Emre Can, which resulted in him seeing a straight red and leaving Milan with 10 men and a subsequent insurmountable uphill battle.

The final whistle came soon after, and with it brought Juventus a record eighth Supercoppa. It goes without saying that there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a cup final, but this was a historic and monumental occasion for Jeddah. 

The first major European cup final match being held in Saudi Arabia is now in the books, and with it brought an added sense of passion and excitement. 

Thousands of men, women and children showed up enthusiastically, were highly supportive of both teams, and were thoroughly entertained. It was a successful and memorable night that will surely pave the way for many more.

Addressing a prematch press conference on Tuesday night, Juventus Captain Giorgio Chiellini had defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.”

Juventus had been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they had lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. 

Chiellini, however, firmly believed that his team would change the trend and the team did make their captain proud. 

Juventus now holds the outright record of most Italian Super Cups with eight titles. (Arab News photo by Ali Khamg)