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Road to China 2019: Can Jordan's Falcons soar to the World Cup?
AMMAN (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - Jordan are aiming for a berth in the World Cup 2019, but to achieve that, they'll need to regain their sharp form in the final Asian Qualifiers window.
Jordan carry a 5-win, 5-loss slate in Group E, and that is good enough for fifth place. The top two teams in the group - New Zealand and Korea - have already qualified, while the third-place team, China, are the World Cup hosts. Ahead of Jordan in the team standings are the Cedars of Lebanon.
For a realistic chance at qualifying to the World Cup, the Falcons need to ensure they win their remaining two Asian Qualifiers fixtures. Doing so would give them 7 wins against 5 losses, which can potentially thrust them past Lebanon to gain the group's third World Cup berth outright or put them in a good position to be Asia's best 4th-placed team when ranged against the 4th-placed team of Group F. That can be any team from among Japan, Philippines or Kazakhstan.
If Jordan end up with anything less than 7 wins, they will be in terribly precarious position. They've lost their last 4 games, though, so getting any wins in the final window will be a huge challenge for coach Joey Stiebing and his wards.
Jordan at the FIBAWC
The Falcons have qualified for the World Cup only once - in Turkey 2010, where they were grouped with Serbia, Germany, Argentina, Australia and Angola.
Jordan lost all five of their games yet did turn some heads with their steady play. Bannered by the likes of Sam Daghles, Ayman Idais and Rasheim Wright, the Falcons gave teams like Australia, Angola and even Argentina a run for their money.
Jordan winless tournament meant they finished 23rd at the World Cup, just ahead of Tunisia.
Jordan pillar Zaid Abbas:
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There are hardly any remnants of that 2010 squad left, but perhaps foremost among those who remain on-call for national duty is veteran forward Zaid Abbas.
Abbas, at 35 years of age, is one of the most seasoned players in the Asian Qualifiers, and productive, averaging 12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 three-pointers per game. It's no surprise, then that he is Jordan's team captain and that he hopes they will be more focused in their last two Asian Qualifiers matches.
"As team captain, I will do my best and put full energy and effort to lead the team," he said. "We need to give all we got and stay focused to put up a big fight for the win. We should learn from our mistakes from the last games."
Jordan last won an Asian Qualifiers contest in 2018 July against India, and Abbas knows that it is imperative for them to regain their form if they are to stand a chance against the Chinese and the Tall Black next month.
"We did not play our best, and we could have done better," he said. "We lost a couple games at the end that we should have won, but I still believe Jordan have big potential."
To help Jordan play their best, Abbas knows that they will need their home fans to come out in full force and throw their all-out support for the Falcons.
"Our fans give us big support and have been with us in every game. We have had full house for all home games, and we want our fans to believe in us and be there so we can do it together."
Expert Opinion (Jeff Taylor)
It wouldn't be wrong to describe Jordan as awful in the last window. They were. There can be no sugarcoating a 95-69 beat-down in Christchurch to New Zealand or an 88-67 drubbing by Korea in Busan. The one positive to come out of the last window? The Falcons, despite having had their feathers plucked, are still in contention for a World Cup spot.
Here is what should give Jordan fans hope. First of all, since China, who currently appear as the third-place team in the standings, will not take up a spot in the standings once the Asian Qualifiers are over, Jordan will move up at least one spot. (China is removed from the standings since they qualify as the host nation for the World Cup). What also should give Jordan fans hope is that they own a potential tie-breaker against Lebanon, who host New Zealand and Korea and could easily lose twice in the next window. If that happens, the door is open for Jordan. They would need just one victory to have the same record as the Cedars and therefore leapfrog them in the standings.
Against China, Jordan will need more production from the bench than in the first game. The reserves of China outscored theirs 31-11 on September 17, and they also poured in 21 points off the 14 Falcons turnovers. It would help Jordan if they could connect from 3-point range, too, which they did just twice against China while shooting 9.5% (2 of 21). As for the second meeting with New Zealand, Jordan need a monumental improvement in all areas. The Tall Blacks were so convincing that the November 29 game was essentially over by half-time.
Jordan have a better chance of defeating China, a traditional rival, in Amman, than of knocking off the Tall Blacks. If they start well, execute for 40 minutes and get loud backing from the home crowd, it could happen. Will they? My heart says yes but my head says no.