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Jordan’s young brigade primed to deliver on big stage


Amman: With just four days remaining until Jordan’s historic opening-match at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018, a new generation of youngsters are set to prove themselves on the continent’s biggest stage.

After a marathon preparation which has included matches and training camps throughout Asia, Europe and the United States, the host nation will begin their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign against the Philippines on Friday.

Since his appointment just under a year ago, head coach Michael Dickey has built on the lessons gathered at Jordan’s previous trip to the finals in 2014 to develop a strong squad with a finely-balanced mix of youth and experience.

The established attacking triumvirate of Maysa Jbarah, Stephanie Al-Naber and Shahnaz Jebreen contributed a staggering 28 goals in Jordan’s five qualifying matches, and remains key, but a cast of talented young players has also emerged.

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Of the 23 players selected for Jordan’s final squad, seven are under 21 years of age, and team captain Al-Naber spoke highly of her about her team’s young talent.

“Salma Ghazal, our promising 19-year-old goalkeeper, Tasneem Abu-Rob, our 17-year-old midfielder, and Rouzbahan Fraij our 17-year-old defender (are talented players),” she told the-AFC.com

“Both Tasneem and Rouzbahan have also represented Jordan at the (2016 FIFA) U-17 Women’s World Cup, and that enriched their international experience and self-esteem as well.”

 

All three of those players were selected for Jordan’s final pre-tournament friendly, a 1-1 draw against Chinese Taipei, with Ghazal and Abu-Rob each playing 90 minutes.

Sara Abu-Sabbah is another graduate of the U-17 Women’s World Cup – also hosted in Jordan. Now 18, and on the books of German powerhouse Bayer Leverkusen, the forward set the 2016 event alight when she gave Jordan the lead over Mexico with a stunning strike that went on to be nominated for goal of the tournament.

Al Nashmiyat have registered steady improvement in the build-up to the tournament. Their results have often been impressive, with last December’s 2-1 over Group A rivals Thailand the high watermark, and a place in the tournament’s top five appears a realistic objective.

 

 

Such an achievement would make Jordan the first West Asian to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which Al-Naber says is team’s number one priority.

“The most important goal is qualifying to the World Cup,” she said, adding “It has always been my dream, and the team’s dream as well; to play and represent our country in the most prestigious international competition.”

“With that said, if we qualify to World Cup as first or second place from our group, then that takes us to the semi finals, and that will be our second mission!! To reach as far as we can in the Asian Cup.

“This tournament is a dream come true, we are all hoping that we will qualify to the World Cup on our home-soil, and with the support of our fans.”

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