Two semi-final spots for 2023 AFC Asian Cup up for grabs on Friday

Two semi-final spots for 2023 AFC Asian Cup up for grabs on Friday

QLNews
By QLNews

With the 2023 AFC Asian Cup nearing its end, the matches have become do-or-die affairs. Fans of the sport will be treated to two fiery encounters in Qatar today.

Tajikistan and Jordan, who are both trying to make it to their first-ever Asian Cup semifinal stage, will be highly motivated.

While Tajikistan is progressing beyond the Asian tournament’s first round for the first time, Jordan has more big match experience. Last year, Jordan were surprise semifinalists at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

South Korea will take to the ground seeking a win to try and end a 64-year-wait for the Asian title. Australia, who were Asian champions in 2015, will also be looking to progress from the tough game.

With so much at stake, here is a look at how the different teams are prepared for Friday’s crunch match.

TAJIKISTAN VS JORDAN

Kick-off: 14:30pm
Venue: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

Head coach Petar Segrt sees every win as a trophy for his Tajikistan side who face Jordan in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Friday.

The Central Asian nation have been a revelation in the tournament, pipping China to second place in Group A to qualify for the knockout stages on their debut, then going on to defeat the UAE on penalties to book a quarterfinal date with Jordan.

Tajikistan looked set to win their Round of 16 tie in regular time after Vahdat Hanonov had put them in front, but an added-time equaliser from Khalifa Al Hammadi forced an additional 30 minute and penalties, and Segrt believes his team have already recovered from the herculean effort of that match and are raring to go again.

“We’re ready to continue our dream. We live in today, so we’re ready to face Jordan. They’re a very good team and Hussein Ammouta is a great coach and a great personality, but we’ll win again, it’ll be like we won the Asian Cup for the third time,” said Segrt.

“We celebrated like we won the Asian Cup against Lebanon, against the UAE and we’ll do it again. We’re the tournament’s dark horses, and the dark horse is still running,” he added.

The two teams faced off in the joint qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 in November, with Shahrom Samiev putting Tajikistan ahead in the 89th minute in Dushanbe, but Jordan responded in added time, equalising through Yazan Al Nuaimat.

Ammouta, a Moroccan international in the 1990s who played and coached in Qatar before taking the Jordan head coach job in June 2023, believes his side can count on the level of support that propelled his native country into the FIFA World Cup semifinals in Qatar 13 months ago.

“We’re motivated and ambitious to represent ourselves first, this is our responsibility and duty. Tajikistan are a tough, organised team who’re quick in transitions and have caused us a lot of trouble in the previous game against them. Any team that makes it to the quarterfinals have earned the right to be here,” he said.

In four previous AFC Asian Cup appearances, Jordan reached the quarterfinals twice, in 2004 and 2007, but have never advanced into the last-four stage.

Ammouta’s side is well poised to make the next step, having prepared well for the Tajikistan clash and seen talented playmaker Noor Al Rawabdeh recover from injury.

AUSTRALIA VS SOUTH KOREA

Kick-off: 6:30pm
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium

Jurgen Klinsmann wants his South Korean players to embrace the challenge of facing Australia in the quarterfinals on Friday to move another step closer to reclaiming the continental title for the first time since 1960.

Klinsmann, a FIFA World Cup winner in 1990 during his playing days with Germany, is no stranger to featuring at the sharp end of major tournaments. The 59-year-old is hoping his squad can view such high-pressure clashes with similar relish.

“I want them to experience what it would mean to get to the end of a tournament, all the way to the end, and to play for the trophy. So that’s what I tried to tell them, that they utilise this moment in time, they understand this moment in time,” he said.

“Now it gets down to the grinding phase. Now it’s the big stage. And I love this moment. I hope they enjoy and love that too. And then the better team will win. It’ll be another nail-biter against the Socceroos. They're a good team. We respect them, but we believe in ourselves too. So hopefully it works out,” added Klinsmann.

The German’s team go into the meeting at Al Janoub Stadium with two days fewer rest than the Australians and needed extra-time and penalties to overcome Saudi Arabia in the last 16 on Tuesday. Australia had eliminated Indonesia on Sunday.

“We want to go through and if you want to go through the knockout stage in a major tournament, you’ve to suffer. That’s normal. The players play this way in their club teams. Many play in Europe every three or four days. No problem,” he said.

The meeting is the first between the two nations in the competition since Australia defeated the South Koreans in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final. But while Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is aware of the Taeguk Warriors’ quality, his attention is trained on his own side’s preparations.

“We’re up against a top opponent, and we’ve got to go out and believe in ourselves,” said Arnold. “We’ve got that belief, and my expectations are always the same, we go out on the pitch to win. It’s full focus on ourselves. They’ve got a strong squad, but it’s about what we do, if we get our game right. We know their strengths, and we'll deal with them the best way we can. It’s about getting our game right,” added the coach.

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