Japan will go to a World Cup playoff in Asia at the very least, and are still likely to become the first team to clinch their trip to Brazil in 2014, but they were unable to lock up qualification in Jordan on Tuesday. Thanks to their fantastic performance in a 2-1 win and results elsewhere, Jordan is now second in Group B, and is closing in on their first ever World Cup bid.
The first half was very even, with both teams missing some good chances to score early on. Japan's best chance of the half came in the 23rd minute, when Ryoichi Maeda headed a cross by Makoto Hasebe off the crossbar. The lackadaisical visitors looked to be cruising into halftime with a favorable 0-0 draw, but Jordan stunned them in first half stoppage time, going ahead just before the break. On a corner, Khalil Bani Attiah rose up above everyone and directed a brilliant shot past Eiji Kawashima.
Japan looked to be in control and likely to net an equalizer early in the first half, but got taken apart on the counter in the 60th minute. Ahmed Hayel scored what will perhaps go down as the goal of his life if Jordan qualify for the World Cup, skipping past multiple defenders on a long run down the right flank before cutting into the box and finishing to put his side up 2-0.
Shortly after that goal, Jordan's unsung hero of the night, Odai Al-Saify, was substituted off. While he didn't score or assist on either of his team's goals, he provided a constant danger and his work rate was phenomenal. As he left the pitch, he high-fived and hugged his teammates before running to the sidelines, jumping up and down, encouraging the crowd to cheer their team on.
This sparked a serious sense of urgency into the visitors, who dominated for most of the remainder of the match. Just seconds after the ensuing kickoff, Hiroshi Kiyotake forced a save out of Amer Sabbah. Japan kept the pressure on, and eventually pulled a goal back in the 69th minute through Shinji Kagawa. Jordan conceded a penalty 90 seconds later, which seemed to signal an imminent collapse.
However, Sabbah came up huge for his country, guessing correctly on Yasuhito Endo's penalty and making a diving stop to his left. From that point forward, Jordan looked like they had the match at least somewhat under control. Hayel almost put the game away in the 76th minute with a second goal, but his shot was cleared off the line by the Japanese defense.
Japan had all of the possession and a few half-chances in the dying minutes, but Jordan held on for three valuable points, denying the visitors their early ticket to the World Cup.