Al Ain: Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans hailed the performance of veteran goalkeeper Amer Shafi after the 36-year-old played a huge role in his side’s winning start to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with victory over defending champions Australia on Sunday.
Shafi, who is representing his country at the tournament for a fourth time after playing in the Finals in 2004, 2011 and 2015, made several important saves as the Socceroos attempted to find a way to cancel out Anas Bani Yaseen’s first half header.
Graham Arnold’s team was unable to claim an equaliser as Jordan held on to record a historic result against the holders, and Borkelmans praised Shafi’s impact, not only between the posts but on the rest of the players in the team.
“It’s his fourth tournament and that’s very special,” said the Belgian, who was appointed to his role in October. “The level he played at and the confidence he gave to the defenders was amazing.
“This confidence is very good and it’s important he gives something to the players of Jordan.
“I think we’ve done something special, but the next game is very important. The other two teams are also special teams and tough games and then maybe we can look to the next round.”
The Jordanians next take on Syria before facing off against Palestine in their final Group B clash and Borkelmans is hoping his players can perform in a similar manner to how they did at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium to secure a place in the next phase of the competition.
“I’m a guy who played for many years and the confidence I have as a coach I give this to the players,” he said. “You saw my players, they were like they had three lungs and they can run for their country. We must do that every game.
“Every game is a tough game. My Asian Cup started in October and we have worked very hard to be ready for this tournament. A tournament is so special but you must be physically and mentally ready.”
Australia’s defeat was the second time in three tournaments the defending champions had lost their opening game after Iraq succumbed to Iran in their first match in the 2011 edition and Arnold was hoping to learn the lessons from the loss before the Socceroos meet Palestine on Friday.
“When you lose you learn and we’ll go back and look at the footage of it,” he said. “But if you’re going to lose a game then it’s better to lose the first game.
“It’s a wakeup call at the same time, but you have three games in the group and then if you get through to the knockout stage and you lose you go home. It’s more about where we can improve and get over that very quickly, and we will get over it very quickly and move forward.”
The former Sydney FC boss made no excuses for his side’s defeat and praised the performance of the Jordanians.
“Ten out of the 11 went to the World Cup, the only one that really debuted was (Awer) Mabil, who didn’t go to the World Cup,” he said. “I couldn’t really put out a more experienced side who know how to handle these occasions.
“Let’s not take anything away from Jordan, they did a fantastic job, played a great game and full credit to them.”
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation Website