Belgian Vital Borkelmans looking for Jordan to prove themselves against Saudi Arabia

Vital Borkelmans is the new Jordan boss and has been tasked with getting the team to make an impression at next year's Asian Cup. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

Belgian Vital Borkelmans looking for Jordan to prove themselves against Saudi Arabia

  • New Jordan boss looking to use friendly against Green Falcons to gauge where his side are ahead of the Asian Cup.
  • Borkelmans wants to create a new level of confidence in the Jordan camp.

LONDON: New Jordan national team coach Vital Borkelmans is looking forward to
November’s Asian Cup warm-up against Saudi Arabia and a chance to prove that his side can shock at the continental competition taking place in the UAE in January.
The 55-year-old was No. 2 to Belgium boss Marc Wilmots from 2012 to 2016, four years when the Red Devils established themselves as one of the best teams in the world and now has a different challenge.
The former international full-back is now charged with making Jordan a continental power, starting with the Asian Cup where they have been dumped in a tricky group with defending champions Australia, Syria and Palestine.
Saudi Arabia, who made six out of seven continental finals between 1984 and 2007 — winning three — have excellent Asian Cup credentials and Borkelmans expects and hopes for a tough test in Amman.
“Saudi Arabia (are) a good team,” Borkelmans told Arab News. “They are strong, as I saw at the World Cup, and after that first game with Russia, Saudi Arabia performed well against Uruguay and then beat Egypt — to win a game at the World Cup is a special thing.
“They are always in tournaments and they are a team that can show us what we have to do to succeed at the Asian Cup.”
If all goes well then Borkelmans’ contract may be extended until beyond January.
“They called me about it in May when we played against Cyprus when I was assistant coach to Jamal (Abu Abed) and I had been in the country 15 days. We had a good game against them.”
In early September, he got the top job. Most of his experience so far has been as an assistant but it has been valuable experience indeed. There is not much time before the Asian Cup but his first target is to try and replicate the atmosphere that he helped create with Belgium.
“I was working with Marc Wilmots with Belgium, we started in 2012 and we made a big family and that was very important,” he said. “It was a lot of the same squad and same players. Now with my job here, I also have a good group with a good mentality, the best players in Jordan. We will try our best. I believe in what I am doing and my staff believe in me.”
Belief is crucial to what Borkelmans is trying to do with a team that reached the last eight of the Asian Cup in 2004 and 2011.
“You must give players confidence. If I can increase the players’ confidence then I can get a 20-30 percent increase in quality and that can make the difference between success and failure.
“Sometimes I must put my efforts on the line and I am more than a father. When you are playing with young guys this is very important — look at some of the young players who have come up to play for Belgium, confidence is key.”
Jordan does not yet have the quality of Belgium, but if the new coach can make a difference in helping domestic stars become international ones, that will be another step in the right direction.
“There is a lot of difference between Belgian and Jordan players,” Borkelmans said. “Belgian players obviously go and play outside Belgium in bigger numbers but there is more than that. They play in the big clubs in England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France and they are also starting.
“But this is not Belgium and I have to choose Jordan players. The league here is not at a  high level compared to other leagues in Europe, but I have to give people a chance to get good results. I am giving the players a lot of responsibility. If we work together, we can make a surprise at the Asian Cup. I believe this.”

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”