Playoff pressure: Uruguay go confidently to Amman

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) Uruguay has the star players and the experience of appearing for the fourth straight time in an intercontinental playoff for a spot at the World Cup, making Oscar Tabarez' squad a heavy favorite to secure one of the last two places for Brazil 2014.

Jordan has never reached the World Cup, while Uruguay has won football's ultimate prize twice.

The two-leg intercontinental playoff opens in Amman on Wednesday, and Jordan's appearance has plunged the country into a World Cup frenzy.

King Abdullah II donated $500,000 toward the preparations for "Al Nashama," as the team is known, and royals, officials and governments agencies are uniting to support their team. Jordan Television held a one-day telethon that $2.8 million for the team.

The fever spread to the UAE where Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HRH Princess Haya have offered a private plane to fly the Jordanian team to Uruguay for the return match in Montevideo on Nov. 20.

Security has been tightened in Amman, traffic diverted and high demand for tickets has opened a black market. Police have called on fans to respect the match and players and refrain from carrying any fireworks, laser pointers or any sharp objects to the match.

Police say a strict security plan will be implemented before, during and after the match with gates opening five hours ahead of kickoff to accommodate the thousands of spectators who want to see their team make history.

The Uruguayans were due into Jordan on Monday night. Practice and news conferences were scheduled for Tuesday.

Ahead of the trip, Cristian Rodriguez told FIFA.com the squad was well aware of the tightrope they're walking.

"There must be something a little bit masochistic about us because this is the fourth time in a row that we've had to go through a play-off," Rodriquez said.

Qualifying for Brazil is particularly important for Uruguay, as it was the scene of the shocking win in the final game of the 1950 tournament that still lives on in the national psyche.

"Obviously we really want to go to Brazil," Rodriguez said. "People here are always talking about that World Cup. It was a piece of history and it will always be there. The fans are really behind us, telling us we have to go there and win.

But the Uruguayans aren't getting ahead of themselves.

"We know the playoff won't be easy," Rodriguez said. "We've got a lot of players on yellow cards and there might be injuries too. Anything could happen and both games will be like finals.

"People point to the record books and speak about Uruguay being favorites. But while we've won World Cups, Copas America and the like, we have to remember that if Jordan have come this far, then it's for a reason. We have to respect them."

While Turkey had a training camp in Turkey, the Jordan team has been able to prepare at home. The Jordanian squad entered its final training camp after returning from Doha with a 1-0 friendly win over Zambia and coach Hussam Hassan said it was important to make a few final adjustments.

Jordan's squad will miss key players including team captain Amer Deeb and leading goal scorer Hasan Abdul Fattah, while goalkeeper Amer Shafie is in doubt with a knee injury.

Uruguay, semifinalists at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, finished fifth in South American qualifying despite a strong squad featuring Juventus defender Martin Caceres and strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Uruguay coach Tabarez praised his squad for a "dignified" finish to its regional qualifying, and said there was no way his squad would take Jordan lightly.

"Like all Uruguayans I hope we make it through (but) we would be very wrong to think Jordan cannot cause us problems," he said.

Hossam Hassan, the Egyptian who took over as Jordan coach before the regional playoff against Uzbekistan, doesn't have a problem with his squad being underdogs against Uruguay.

"We've come this far and we're optimistic we can make the Jordanian people's dreams come true and get to the World Cup," he has been quoted as saying. "We have done the first part of our job against Uzbekistan in the Asian playoffs and now we are looking to prepare well for Uruguay."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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