Japan vs Jordan, 09/01/2011, 13:15 GMT
Qatar SC Stadium, Doha
The Unofficial Football World Championships 2011 campaign gets underway on Sunday as UFWC champions Japan take on challengers Jordan in Qatar. This title match is also the opening Group B fixture of the 2011 Asian Cup. Japan and Jordan will compete with Saudi Arabia and Syria in Group B, with the top two sides progressing to the knock out stage. For the bigger picture see our 2011 Asian Cup Preview.
Jordan are major underdogs, having never been involved in a UFWC title match in the entire history of the unofficial competition. They have played in one previous Asian Cup, in 2004, when they reached the quarter finals. That was considered to be the greatest achievement in the country’s footballing history.
Al-Nashima (the Brave Ones) are coached by an experienced Iraqi, Adnan Hamad, who called qualification for this tournament “a gift for the nation”. The side achieved qualification despite scoring only four goals throughout the campaign. Former star striker Mahmoud Shelbaieh, a national hero in Jordan, is no longer a member of the national squad. So they’ll be relying on Odai Al-Saify of Cypriot club Alki Larnaca for goals, alongside the likes of Moayyad Abu Keshek and Abdullah Deeb. Goalkeeper Amer Shafia and central defensive leader Hatem Aqel are other key players.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has much greater depth of talent at his disposal. The Italian, who won Serie A with AC Milan in 1999, has stated an aim to add European flair to his Blue Samurai. Japan are among the favourites to win the Asian Cup, alongside Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Midfielders Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Kagawa should prove more than a match for any team in the competition. However, like Jordan, Japan have found goals hard to come by recently. Shinji Okazaki scored the winner against Argentina in October, and he looks likely to start this match as Japan’s lone striker, despite remaining on the bench throughout the World Cup. Zaccheroni will be without injured central defenders Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuji Nakazawa.
Television coverage of the 2011 Asian Cup is sparse. There is no live UK TV coverage of Japan vs Jordan. British Eurosport 2 will show highlights of the game at 22:45. However, it is possible to watch the match live online via the official AFC TV service. A monthly pass, which will allow you to watch the entire tournament, costs £4.99. The online service is not available to viewers in Japan, China, Korea, Australia or North America. Other streaming services may be available.
Can Japan retain the UFWC title or will Jordan pull off an almighty shock? Post your predictions and comments below, and join us for full coverage of the game on Sunday.