LONDON: Vital Borkelmans praised his players’ grit, determination and will to win after they shocked defending champions Australia in the Group B opener.
Anas Bani Yaseen was the match-winner, finding space following a short-corner routine by Jordan to guide in a near-post header in the 26th minute. From then on it was a case of backs to the wall for Borkelmans’ boys as they frustrated the Socceroos who, for all their possession, could not find the back of the net.
That left their Belgian coach a happy man and very proud of the effort his players put in. “I told them today they were playing for the people of Jordan,” Borkelmans said. “They were running like they had three lungs.”
Such was the display the Jordan players put on that some could be forgiven for thinking Borkelmans was speaking literally. While all the focus over the next few days will be on what exactly went wrong in the Australia camp, credit must be given to Jordan.
Before the clash Borkelmans told his team to play without fear and that is exactly what they did. The players executed his game plan perfectly — solid at the back, closing down the Aussies in the middle, coping with the resulting crosses with ease, and countering at pace. This shock was not down to luck but was the result of the Middle East side simply being the better team on the day.
In a side full of heroes Khalil Bani Ateyah and Mousa Suleiman stood out, setting the tone for their teammates, denying the Socceroos space and threatening when in possession.
The defeat for the Socceroos will prompt some much-needed soul searching. Graham Arnold’s side may have gone into the tournament with some high-profile injuries — against Jordan it was clear they missed Aaron Mooy’s presence in midfield — but they were still expected to win without too much trouble.
Borkelmans masterminded Jordan's shock victory against the defending champions. (AFP)
For the Socceroos’ coach the overriding emotion after the match was one of frustration, but he refused to be too downbeat, knowing they still have winnable matches against Syria and Palestine.
“It was one of those days, a frustrating day when the ball just didn’t seem to bounce,” Arnold said. “If you’re going to lose a game, it’s better to lose your first game.
“It’s a wake-up call ... it’s all about where we can improve. We’ll get over it very quickly.”
Jordan had just 24 percent possession in the match and rode their luck under severe pressure in the second half, with Awer Mabil hitting the post for Australia and Jamie Maclaren having a goal disallowed for a narrow offside.
Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi added his name to the list of national heroes with a brilliant double save in the final attack of the match.
“This will hurt everyone, I know that,” Australia captain Mark Milligan said. “It’s hurting me at the minute. I just think we were a little lethargic. We know we have to be better if we want to progress and succeed in this tournament.”
Up next for Borkelmans’ team is a clash against Syria on Thursday, while the Socceroos have to pick themselves up in time for a must-win match against Palestine the following day.