DOHA, Jan 18, 2011 (AFP) - The winner takes all when neighbours Jordan and Syria do battle on Monday at the Asian Cup knowing a victory for either side will propel them into the last eight.
Jordan are in a slightly better position with four points from two games, with Syria on three points in Group B, meaning a draw for Jordan would also be enough for them to seal a place in the knock-out stages.
Japan, one of the pre-tournament favourites, will be looking to top the group when they play Saudi Arabia, who are already out of contention.
A dogged Jordan have impressed in drawing with Japan in their first match -- the Japanese needing a last-gasp equaliser for a point -- before beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 to turf the regional giants out of the tournament.
Jordan's coach Adnan Hamad, who has reportedly had his contract extended until 2015 to take in World Cup qualifying, is hoping for more of the same from his unfancied side, who tend to soak up pressure and play on the break.
"We will play to win and we want to finish top of the group," the Iraqi said. "I have good confidence in the players to achieve the expectations of the fans back home in Jordan and in the stadium."
Hamad said captain and key defender Hatem Aqel, who injured his knee in the Japan draw and missed the Saudi game, would not play again in the tournament.
But he was confident nevertheless of pulling off victory and getting into the knock-out stages, for what would be a major achievement.
"I call on the players to focus and concentrate, we need to forget about the last two games now. We are facing a very good and distinguished team supported by a good number of fans," he cautioned.
"But I am very optimistic about the match, even though we are facing a very strong team. The pressure is on us now from the fans."
Syria's French-speaking Romanian coach Tita Valeriu acknowledged the odds were against his side, who started with a shock 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia before losing by the same scoreline to Japan in controversial circumstances.
"We played very well against Saudi Arabia and did pretty well against Japan," he said.
"Jordan are a very good team and play well down the flanks and in the centre of the pitch."
Like Jordan, Syria have surprised in staying in contention in a group that was widely expected to be dominated by Japan and three-times champions Saudi Arabia.
Valeriu's achievement is even more admirable given he was only drafted in at the last moment to take over after the previous coach was fired after just one game.
The Romanian, however, has in-depth knowledge of football in the country because he is coach of Al Ittihad of Aleppo, whom he led to AFC Cup glory in November.
"I've been training the team only about three weeks but I am very satisfied with the players and I have full confidence in them," he said.