Ammouta’s back-to-basics approach sets Jordan up for a shot at Asian Cup glory against Qatar

Ammouta’s back-to-basics approach sets Jordan up for a shot at Asian Cup glory against Qatar
Mousa Al-Tamari, left, translated Jordan’s dominant tactical display into goals in front of a partisan crowd at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Feb. 6, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Ammouta’s back-to-basics approach sets Jordan up for a shot at Asian Cup glory against Qatar

Ammouta’s back-to-basics approach sets Jordan up for a shot at Asian Cup glory against Qatar
  • Moroccan coach’s conservative tactics, as well as the counterattacking threat of Yazan Al-Naimat and Mousa Al-Tamari, could see a historic first title for Al-Nashama

Tournaments, by design, are unpredictable, but for better or worse, this is what sets the narratives in international football. It is safe to say that Jordan not only changed the narrative but also produced a seismic shift in the way the continent will view them in future.

Coming into this tournament, Jordan was nothing more than a plucky underdog. It had the best record of the Levantine nations at the AFC Asian Cup finals; not much of a standard considering the fact that Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon had never progressed past the group stage before Qatar 2023.

Al-Nashama had never won a knockout stage game at an Asian Cup before their 3-2 triumph over Iraq. After losing to Vietnam on penalties in the last edition, it seemed that this team was hexed. Couple that with failure to advance to the third round of World Cup qualification for the 2018 and 2022 editions of the FIFA World Cup and it seemed that Jordan was destined to keep falling just short.

The Jordan FA made a big splash with the appointment of Hussein Ammouta, who has become a national hero for leading Al-Nashama to the semifinals and now the final of the Asian Cup for the first time. It is worth noting that he was persona non grata in the Hashemite kingdom before the tournament.

Ammouta arrived in Amman looking to fundamentally change the way Jordan plays. The team was supposed to become the carbon copy of his Morocco A side that eviscerated Asian opponents Palestine, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia at FIFA Arab Cup in 2021. During that tournament, Ammouta’s side dominated proceedings, averaging 60 percent possession, three goals a game, and holding their Asian counterparts to two total shots on goal during the group stage.

The secret to Jordan’s success has not been in replicating that style but going back to their roots. The Jordanians have always found joy in sitting and countering, and while Ammouta has not “parked the bus,” he has taken a page from his predecessor Adnan Hamad and set up the team in a midblock that preys on opponents’ mistakes in midfield.

In eight competitive matches under Ammouta, Jordan have never won when enjoying more possession. The team lost to Saudi Arabia in World Cup qualification and needed a last-gasp equalizer in Dushanbe to avoid defeat to Tajikistan in matches where they had 56 percent and 50 percent possession, respectively.

At the Asian Cup finals, Jordan have beaten Malaysia, Iraq, Tajikistan, and Korea with less of the ball. Their lone loss of their tournament — against Bahrain — featured 60 percent possession.

Rest assured the team has had its fair share of luck. Karma usually bites teams that lose strategically — as Jordan seemed to do against Bahrain — in order to avoid a stronger opponent (in this case Japan).

A controversial sending off of Aymen Hussein was the catalyst for an unlikely 3-2 comeback against Iraq with two goals in injury time overturning a 2-1 deficit.

In the quarterfinals, Jordan grinded out an ugly 1-0 victory against Tajikistan. After enjoying more possession in the first half, they ceded possession produced no shots on goal and found the winner through the most fortunate of deflections.

Their 2-0 demolition of Korea Republic on Tuesday, however, was not down to luck. Jordan were brilliant and were, in fact, unlucky not to take a lead into halftime. Yazan Al-Naimat and Mousa Al-Tamari translated Jordan’s dominant tactical display into goals in front of a partisan crowd at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Possession stats perhaps do not always reflect the nature of the game. Korea had 70 percent of the ball, but managed zero shots on target. Jordan had seven. Jordan’s verve and vigor were clear to anyone watching.

Hosts and holders Qatar await the Jordanians on Saturday night. For their part, the Qataris were also not expected to be here having fired Carlos Queiroz a month before the tournament was due to start.

They, too, went back to tried-and-tested methods in this tournament. The stodgy defensive style of Queiroz never seemed a natural fit for players who had been brought up with the Aspire Academy’s FC Barcelona-influenced approach.

Dominating possession has been a feature of Al-Annabi in all their games bar the surprise win over Iran in the semifinal.

Qatar’s style of play suits this Jordanian side just fine who have masked the defensive frailties of their centerbacks and goalkeeper by playing a three-man backline. They have been further aided by wingbacks and midfielders who have been given a defense-first remit.

It was a switch to this formation that gave Ammouta his first win as Jordan manager — against Qatar no less — at the eighth time of asking.

After years of evangelizing a proactive approach, Ammouta and his Jordan side are now firm disciples of Jose Mourinho’s seven rules:

1. The game is won by the team who commits fewer errors.

2. Football favors whoever provokes more errors in the opposition.

3. Away from home, instead of trying to be superior to the opposition, it’s better to encourage their mistakes.

4. Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake.

5. Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake.

6. Whoever has the ball has fear.

7. Whoever does not have it is thereby stronger.

With Jordan riding a crest of positive emotion and fans already celebrating their achievement, there will be no pressure on Al-Nashama. If errors are provoked in the Qatari midfield then Jordan will present their most dangerous players, Al-Naimat and Al-Tamari, with the chance to take the Asian Cup back to Amman.


Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
Updated 25 June 2024
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Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
  • Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2

HOUSTON: James Rodriguez rolled back the years with a vintage performance to help Colombia open their Copa America campaign with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in Houston on Monday.
Rodriguez, whose club career has languished in the decade since he rose to prominence with a dazzling performance at the 2014 World Cup, created both of his team’s goals in a deserved Group D victory at the NRG Stadium.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who has played just a handful of minutes for Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the two months leading into the Copa America, set up the opening goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute.
After finding space on the left flank, Rodriguez flighted a pinpoint cross to the far post to pick out Daniel Munoz, who beat Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo with a firm downward header to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later Colombia doubled their lead and again it was a goal engineered by the trusty left boot of Rodriguez.
This time the goal arrived from the opposite flank, with Rodriguez swinging in a wicked free-kick that was glanced in by Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
That made it 2-0 at half-time to leave Colombia firmly on course to extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games.
Colombia continued to carve out the better chances in the second half, but Paraguay set up a nervy finish after Brighton and Hove Albion’s Julio Enciso pulled one back in the 69th minute.
Ramon Sosa crossed from the left and Enciso punished slack marking in the Colombia area to hook an angled first-time volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas.
Colombia, however, controlled play after the Paraguay goal and looked the more threatening team.
The Colombians thought they had earned a penalty in the 84th minute when another teasing Rodriguez cross into the box ended with defender Yerry Mina appearing to be hauled down by Gustavo Velazquez.
Argentinian referee Dario Herrera pointed to the spot but subsequently overturned the decision after a VAR review.
Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2.
Brazil open their Copa America campaign against the Costa Ricans in Inglewood, California, later on Monday.


Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo
Updated 25 June 2024
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Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

LEIPZIG, Germany: Mattia Zaccagni’s superb last-gasp strike fired Italy into the Euro 2024 knock-outs with a 1-1 draw against Croatia in a fraught Group B clash on Monday.

Italy progress in second place behind winners Spain and will face Switzerland in the last 16, while Croatia are on the verge of elimination but could still progress depending on other results later in the week.

With only two points it is unlikely Zlatko Dalic’s side will qualify as one of the four best third-place teams but it is still possible.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history with his strike after 55 minutes, just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the 38-year-old’s penalty.

It seemed enough for his team but Zaccagni whipped a brilliant strike into the top corner on the break in the 98th minute to send Italy through from what was dubbed a “group of death.”

After shipping five goals in the first two games, Dalic opted to shore up the midfield by bringing in Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic amid four changes.

The coach also kept established trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic despite their struggles in the 3-0 defeat by Spain and 2-2 draw against minnows Albania.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy beat Albania 2-1 but were dominated by Spain in a 1-0 defeat and the coach shifted to a 3-5-2 formation, dropping Juventus’ Federico Chiesa.

Croatia dominated the opening exchanges against a defensive Italy side knowing a draw would send them through in second place behind group winners Spain.

On his first start at the tournament 21-year-old RB Salzburg midfielder Sucic forced a fine early save from Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma with a vicious drive from range.

Azzurri forward Mateo Retegui’s header was deflected narrowly wide at the other end on a rare forray forward, with the two-time winners happy to slow the game down and waste time at corners and throw-ins as early as the 20th minute.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made a stunning stop to thwart Alessandro Bastoni, found by Nicolo Barella’s tempting cross, as the holders gained control without taking risks.

Dalic, who steered Croatia to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup final and semis respectively, threw on powerful striker Ante Budimir for the second half.

It gave his team a focal point and they looked instantly more threatening and swiftly reaped their reward.

Italy substitute Davide Frattesi handled Andrej Kramaric’s effort and after a VAR review Croatia were given a penalty.

Donnarumma clawed out Real Madrid midfielder Modric’s effort but the veteran could not be denied 33 seconds later.

The Italian goalkeeper made another fine save in the aftermath from Budimir as Croatia kept the pressure up and Modric smashed home the rebound from close range.

He beat the previous record for oldest Euros goalscorer set in 2008 by Austrian Ivica Vastic by 32 days.

Modric was replaced with 10 minutes to go and even some Italy supporters afforded the playmaker an ovation, while they nervously eyed the ever-advancing clock.

Croatia thought they had progressed but Zaccagni broke their hearts in the eighth and final minute of stoppage time.


Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
  • It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain’s second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania on Monday as the three-time champions finished the Euro 2024 group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.
Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.
However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 win over Italy four days earlier.
Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.
Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.
It is a regression for them from their debut European Championship appearance in 2016, when they also went out in the first round but did manage to win a game.
Beating a Spain side who have probably been the most impressive so far in Germany was always going to be a big ask for Albania, coached by former Barcelona left-back Sylvinho.
It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship.
Coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.
Center-half Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player to keep his place following the Italy game, with key midfielder Rodri suspended and everyone else given a breather.
Goalkeeper David Raya, defender Dani Vivian, left-back Alejandro Grimaldo and midfielder Martin Zubimendi, all largely untested at international level, came in.
There was also a start for Jesus Navas, who was part of the Spain teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and who is now 38.
Even Laporte was removed at half-time, replaced by Robin Le Normand, while Lamine Yamal and Alvaro Morata also appeared in the second half.
Albania, ranked 66th in the world, knew it would be a big ask to beat Spain having lost all of their eight previous meetings.
Spain first threatened in the 12th minute when Mikel Merino’s header was saved by goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, and a minute later they were ahead.
Dani Olmo stepped into the space between the Albanian lines to receive a pass, and then fed a measured ball in behind for Torres to latch onto.
The former Manchester City player timed his run perfectly and finished with precision too, his first-time effort going in off the far post.
Torres has made a habit of scoring at these tournaments, having netted twice at the last Euros and twice at the 2022 World Cup.
It took Albania until the final minute of the half to test Raya, the Arsenal shot-stopper flying to his right to parry a powerful strike by Kristjan Asllani.
Joselu hooked a Grimaldo cross just wide moments after the restart for Spain, before the Albanian fans raised the noise levels as they became aware of events in the other match.
They were very close to equalising when substitute Armando Broja met an Asllani free-kick and tried to lob Raya, but the goalkeeper saved.
Asllani then fizzed an effort just wide, and Broja was again denied by Raya in stoppage time as Albania bowed out.


Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener
Updated 24 June 2024
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Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener
  • The 11th-ranked US plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri

ARLINGTON, Texas: Christian Pulisic scored in the third minute and assisted on Folarin Balogun’s goal in the 44th as the United States cruised past Bolivia 2-0 in their Copa America opener on Sunday night.
Pulisic joined Clint Dempsey as the only US players with a goal and an assist in a Copa America match and reached 30 goals in 69 international appearances, the fewest among Americans.
“We came out flying with a lot of intensity. Obviously, that early goal helped us a lot,” Pulisic said. “All around, a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there.”
Among six invited guests to South America’s championship, the US is expected to advance from Group C to the quarterfinals along with Uruguay.
“It’s a start that’s massive for us. Build the confidence,” American defender Antonee Robinson said. “If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical, We could have put another two, three goals away.”
Bolivia lost its 13th straight Copa America match dating to 2015 and has one win in its last 31.
The 11th-ranked US plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri. No. 84 Bolivia meets Uruguay on Thursday at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then plays Panama on July 1 at Orlando, Florida.
A crowd of 47,873 attended the match under the retractable roof at 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium, which will host a World Cup semifinal in two years. It was 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside (36 Celsius) the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys at kickoff but air-conditioned inside.
Playing a day before his 30th birthday, goalkeeper Matt Turner had three saves in his 25th international shutout. The US improved to 6-0 at AT&T as the Americans opened their fifth Copa America appearance, the first since reaching the semifinals as co-host in 2016.
The US had 18 touches inside the attacking penalty area in the first half and Bolivia had none.
Pulisic put the US ahead 2:23 in, the fastest American goal in 34 competitive matches against South American opponents. He played a short corner kick to Tim Weah and ran toward the penalty area. Weah returned the ball to Pulisic, who took a touch and from just inside the area curled a right-foot shot off the outstretched fingertips of goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra and into the far upper corner.
Balogun doubled the lead when he received a pass from Pulisic, took several touches and threaded a low, left-foot shot along the ground, past defender Jesús Sagredo and inside Viscarra’s far post for his fourth goal in 13 appearances.
Balogun put the ball in the net again in the 53rd off a pass from Weah, but Weah was whistled for offside when he received the ball from Weston McKennie in the buildup, a decision confirmed in a video review.
Midfielder Tyler Adams, regaining fitness after a back injury, played the first half in his first start for club or country since March 30. Adams and Bologun were inserted into the starting lineup in place of Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi in the two changes from the lineup for the 1-1 exhibition draw against Brazil on June 12. Musah replaced Adams at the start of the second half and Pepi entered in the 65th.
Viscarra pushed Pepi’s 79th-minute shot over the crossbar, then stopped Pepi in the 90th on a point-blank initial attempt and another off the rebound.


Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner
Updated 24 June 2024
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Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner
  • Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year

STUTTGART, Germany: Kevin Csoboth scored in the 10th minute of added time as Hungary snatched a 1-0 win over Scotland to stay in the hunt for a place in the last 16 of Euro 2024.
A sickening collision led to Hungary striker Barnabas Varga being stretchered off in front of his visibly shocked team-mates in the second half, but Csoboth’s late winner kept them alive in the tournament.
It was a bitter end to Scotland’s bid to reach the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time as they were caught out pressing for a goal of their own right at the death.
Germany finished top of Group A after a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, who will go through as runners-up. Hungary must rely on other results if they are to advance as one of the best third-placed sides.
Scotland came last with just a point as their wait for a first European Championship win since 1996 goes on.
Coach Steve Clarke made one enforced change for Scotland as Scott McKenna replaced Kieran Tierney, who was stretchered off with a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland.
English-born Callum Styles got the nod in Hungary’s midfield, coming in after shaking off an injury, with Endre Botka also making his first appearance of the tournament on the right side of a back three.
John McGinn revealed the team skipped their pre-match nap as thousands of Scotland supporters gathered outside the hotel, belting out songs in anticipation of what they hoped was a historic night.
Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year. They also beat England twice in the last UEFA Nations League, as well as Germany away.
But back-to-back defeats had punctured confidence and left Marco Rossi’s side needing to beat Scotland to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn shovelled away a dipping drive from Bendeguz Bolla that bounced awkwardly in front of him, with Styles and then Willi Orban booked for cleaning out McGinn in a first half full of endeavour but limited in genuine chances.
That was until Che Adams’ dangerous clearance led to a Hungary free-kick 25 yards out, which Dominik Szoboszlai clipped toward the far post with Orban’s header skimming the top of the crossbar.
Szoboszlai, who shrugged off injury concerns after missing Hungary’s final team training session, hammered over a strike from distance, and it wasn’t until the 53rd minute that Scotland registered a shot.
Scotland defended doggedly as Jack Hendry blocked Roland Sallai’s attempt shifting in from the left before Marton Dardai headed over from a cross.
A horrifying incident left Varga prone on his back in the Scotland area as he tried to head a free-kick goalwards while Gunn came flying out, with Anthony Ralston also crashing to the ground.
It resulted in a long stoppage as medics set Varga in the recovery position before a sheet was draped around him as he was carried off on a stretcher.
The fourth official indicated 10 minutes of stoppage time, which sparked a desperate quest from both teams to find the winning goal.
Gunn saved well from Andras Schafer and Szoboszlai, before Csoboth hit the post. Scotland defender Grant Hanley had a chance parried away by Peter Gulacsi, with Hungary racing up the other end and Csoboth steering home a cutback to break Scottish hearts.