Complacency the enemy in Jordan clash, Suarez warns
Uruguay star believes that overconfidence could trip up his side in World Cup play-off against Asian 'lightweights'
Uruguay and Liverpool star Luis Suarez has warned his national side against complacency when they take on Jordan in their World Cup play-off in Amman on Wednesday.
Suarez - who has been in tremendous form for Liverpool with eight Premier League goals already this season - flew on a private jet to Amman for the first-leg match that has captured the imagination of Jordanians hoping for an upset victory that could help their nation qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in history.
The Jordanians are also excited about the possibility of being the only Arab side at next year's tournament, with traditional regional superpowers Saudi Arabia and Iraq failing miserably in their qualifying campaigns.
"Jordan will be very motivated to play us, just as teams are when they meet us in the World Cup and the Copa America," said Suarez.
"We have to be careful. We know Jordan have fast outfield players and if you leave space, they could show their quality."
Suarez scored twice against Fulham on Saturday but is not taking his club form for granted.
"After the game against Fulham, it will be a big change because when you play with the national team it's so different," said Suarez, who along with Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani forms a lethal forward combination for Uruguay.
The South Americans are no strangers to the World Cup, having won the tournament in 1930 and 1950. At the last event in South Africa in 2010, they finished fourth after losing to the Netherlands 3-2 in the semi-finals.
The Jordanians are well aware the odds are stacked heavily against them, but that has not stopped them from getting into a celebratory mood, with even King Abdullah calling a live programme on Jordan TV to offer the team a financial incentive.
"Whatever the result of this week's match, I'm proud of the players and hope their efforts will pay off," King Abdullah said on a day-long telethon that raised nearly two million Jordanian dinars (HK$22 million).
Meanwhile, Mexico's self-esteem as a soccer nation has taken a battering in the past two months, and to lose their intercontinental play-off to New Zealand and miss the World Cup would be the final indignity.
Yet if they continue to underperform, as they did in the Concacaf group campaign, they risk becoming only the fourth Mexico team in history to fail to qualify for the finals.
Miguel Herrera, the stocky, tough-talking coach, is entrusted with salvaging the nation's pride in the two-leg play-off with the All Whites. The first leg is on Wednesday at the Azteca, where Mexico's recent form has been poor, with one win and three goals in four matches.
"We keep telling [the players] what we're playing for, the determination we need, the will to bring back the ticket so Mexico can go to the World Cup," Herrera said at the weekend.
"On Wednesday we'll be going all-out to get a good advantage. It's important not to concede a goal but also to get a lead," added Herrera, brought in on the basis of a fine year as coach of top Mexican club side America.
"We don't think [New Zealand] will be easy, but they also don't see us in the same light as [the teams] they faced in their qualifiers.
The United States have challenged Mexico's status as top dogs in the Concacaf region regularly over the past two decades, but Mexico, feeding off one of Latin America's strongest domestic league, have largely taken for granted the task of qualifying for the World Cup.
New Zealand: the game against Mexico will be a "challenge"
The All Whites' build-up has not been ideal. They had to scramble for last-minute preparations against a club side in Los Angeles and a match against Trinidad and Tobago.
Coach Ricki Herbert's planning was also interrupted with the withdrawal of captain Winston Reid, who suffered an ankle injury while training with his English Premier League side West Ham United.
"Losing your captain a week before a match of this magnitude is difficult but this is the nature of football," said Herbert, whose side were unbeaten in three matches at the 2010 World Cup.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters