Uruguay and Liverpool star Luis Suarez has warned his national side against complacency when they take on Jordan in their World Cup playoff in Amman today.
Suarez — who has been in tremendous form for Liverpool with eight Premier League goals already this season — flew on a private jet to Amman for the first leg that has captured the imagination of Jordanians, hoping for an upset victory that could help their nation qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.
The Jordanians are also excited about the possibility of being the only Arab side at next year’s tournament, with traditional regional superpowers Saudi Arabia and Iraq failing miserably in their qualifying campaigns.
“Jordan will be very motivated to play us, just as teams are when they meet us in the World Cup and the Copa America,” Suarez said. “We have to be careful. We know Jordan have fast outfield players and if you leave space, they could show their quality.”
Suarez scored twice against Fulham on Saturday, but is not taking his club form for granted.
“After the game against Fulham, it will be a big change because when you play with the national team it’s so different,” said Suarez, who along with Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani forms a lethal forward combination for Uruguay.
The South Americans are no strangers to the World Cup, having won the tournament twice, in 1930 and 1950. At the last event in South Africa in 2010 they finished a creditable fourth after losing to the Netherlands 3-2 in the semi-finals.
Jordan are well aware the odds are stacked heavily against them, but that has not stopped them from getting into a celebratory mood, with even King Abdullah calling a live program on TV to offer the team a financial incentive.
“Whatever the result of this week’s match, I’m proud of the players and hope their efforts will pay off,” King Abdulla said on the day-long telethon that raised nearly 2 million Jordanian dinars (US$2.83 million).
FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein also hoped the Nashama would spare no effort in their two matches against Uruguay.
“It is a source of pride for Jordanians that our team has reached this far with the meager resources we have,” he was quoted as saying in the Jordan Times.
The Jordan team has come in for some negative press in recent times, with reports dwelling on new Egyptian coach Hossam Hassan’s uneasy relationship with some of the players and last-minute changes to the lineup.
The hosts have been hit by suspensions, with star goalkeeper Amer Shafie having to sit out the match, while Mohamed Dmeiri and Anas Bani Yasin are on the injury list.
Shafie was the hero of Jordan’s match against Uzbekistan, which they edged 9-8 on penalties to make the World Cup playoff from Asia.
Jordan will be also missing midfielder and captain Amer Deeb, who has been surprisingly left out by the coach.
Hassan is calling for a gallant last-ditch effort from the players.
“Jordan are the last Arab team representing Asia. It’s an Arab effort and not a Jordanian effort,” said Hassan, a former striker who led Egypt in the 1990 World Cup.
Australia, South Korea, Iran and Japan are the four teams from Asia who have qualified for Brazil next year.