Middle East soccer seemed to have lost its global competitiveness for a while, trapped in its own narrow culture. However, Arab soccer’s potential beyond the Middle East is interchangeable with each other, and some Jordanians have a strong desire to advance to Europe. Korea’s loss to Jordan in the semifinals of the 2023 Qatar Asian Cup is not an accident, but an event that shows it will struggle more in the upcoming event.
▲ South Korea has been eliminated from Middle East teams for the second time in a row… Even if it is held in Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will take home advantage
In previous Asian Cups, Korea used to be eliminated when it met Asian rivals. Korea has been eliminated in 10 tournaments, including this one, and three of them were eliminated when it met Iran. There were one in Japan and one in Australia. All of them are not Middle East teams. In particular, they were defeated by Japan in 2011 and Australia in 2015, showing an atmosphere that they could win if they beat them.
Recently, however, the team has become increasingly unable to overcome the Middle East team. It lost to Qatar in the quarterfinals at the 2019 United Arab Emirates (UAE) tournament. It lost to Jordan in the latest Qatar tournament and ended up in the semifinals. With the addition of two tournaments, the number of games that the team suffered increased to five, four of which were hosted by the Middle East teams.
Saudi Arabia was not the victim multiple times. Saudi Arabia only once in 1988, and there were a variety of teams including Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and Jordan. Not only one team was strong but all of them were uncomfortable. The Middle East has a strong sense of religious and linguistic homogeneity. No matter where the games are held, all of them can share the atmosphere as if they are home. Korea is also scheduled to host the event in Doha, Qatar, but suffered from unilateral cheering by Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
It is highly likely that the Asian Cup will continue to be held frequently in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia hosted the next event right away. What Korea should be wary of is the “whole Middle East,” not just one or two teams, including Japan and Iran. If Korea participates in the event with easy preparations like this one, it can be repeatedly eliminated when nearly 10 de facto home teams come at it.
▲ North Africa’s Football Power Is Transplanted in Jordan
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are drawing keen attention as they are investing state budgets for soccer development, but they are not the only countries that are strengthening. Although Korea recognizes the Middle East and North Africa separately, they are from the same Arab world. They have the same language and religion, and they share a sense of similarity. The Arab Cup, a tournament that is played by Arab countries beyond the boundaries of the continent, was recently upgraded to a tournament hosted by the FIFA. Algeria (the round of 16 teams at the 2014 World Cup) and Morocco (the semifinal at the 2022 World Cup) proved their international competitiveness, which can be seen in the growth of Arab soccer beyond the growth of North Africa.
The Jordanian national team is a prime example of Arab power beyond the Middle East. Teams that have distinguished themselves in the Middle East have often hired expensive coaches. None of the Middle East teams had their own coaches at the latest event, and eight of them had European or South American coaches. And two coaches from North Africa were from Jordan, Moroccan coach Hussein Amuta, and Tunisian coach Markram Daboub. Amuta made the decision.
Amuta led mostly club teams in Qatar and Morocco, before taking the helm of Jordan last year. As a coach, he won the AFC Champions League (2017), and led a national team comprised only of Moroccan domestic players to win the Nations Championship (2020), a domestic tournament in Africa. After proving sufficient capability in Africa, Amuta has just begun to produce results in the Asian international arena.
Coach Amuta, who lived in the Arab world throughout his career as a player and coach, reportedly had no problem in harmonizing with Jordanian players. After winning the match against Korea, not only Amuta himself but also striker Moussa Al-Tamari expressed his sense of unity with the coach’s motherland, saying, “Morocco people will be proud of us.”
▲ He quickly adapted to a world where bed soccer is not working, and his willingness to advance to Europe
Jordan is also an Arab country that has adapted the rules best these days when “bed football” does not work. With the additional time increased significantly from the 2022 World Cup, the delay in the game has become an act of great risk of being punished later. Saudi Arabia, which failed to keep up with the changes of the times and played as it used to, was eliminated from the round of 16 after a penalty shootout after being hit by an equalizer in the 9th minute of extra time by South Korea.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, Jordan was leading the Korean team when some of its players seemed to fall but soon got up. Rather, Jordan aggressively pressed the Korean midfielders to hit the dull feet and scored an additional goal to win the knockout stage. Jordan is a representative country where the Bedouin people, famous for its nomadic population in the desert, are indigenous. Currently, the proportion of Bedouins has declined to around 40 percent, but it is one of the countries that is called descendants of brave nomadic peoples. Although the race was slightly different from other nomadic Berbers of North Africa, their strong and brave soccer styles were similar. The Jordanian tournament was successful through a game similar to the one in which Morocco, Amuta’s home country, made a big splash in the World Cup. Tactical tendency was made to strengthen physical struggle and make offense fast and concise. From Korea’s point of view, the Jordanian midfield was annoying, and the Jordanian attack was resolutely difficult to prevent. It was no coincidence that many people looked at the match against Jordan and reminisced about the 2014 World Cup match against Algeria. 헤라카지노도메인
Qatar and Saudi Arabia tend to settle down in their own leagues, where huge salaries are guaranteed. Qatar took over European clubs and sent its players to study abroad after hosting the World Cup, but most of them returned to their own leagues. Jordanian ace Al Tamari, on the other hand, chose to join the French national team for the first time after joining the Cyprus and Belgium leagues. “My mother opposed playing overseas, but if I prove my competitiveness in a high-quality league, more Jordanian players will join the European leagues,” Al Tamari said, adding that he would lead the creation of more European leagues in the future. This is the emergence of Middle Eastern players who are challenging a bigger world.