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Mancini’s Saudi team face tricky test against Jordan in 2026 World Cup qualifier

Roberto Mancini has been head coach of Saudi Arabia for three months and five games, but Tuesday’s game with Jordan presents his biggest test yet. In fact, it could be said that the road to the 2026 World Cup really starts now.

The Green Falcons make the short trip to Jordan for the second game in the second round of qualification in the knowledge that a second straight win will mean control of Group G and the promise of a place in the third round.

On paper, it is Saudi Arabia’s most difficult game of the second round. Victory will not guarantee the next stage but will remove a lot of pressure and allow the coach to start thinking more in the long term.

It comes just days after the Italian picked up his first victory as coach of Saudi, a 4-0 triumph over Pakistan at home. The result was expected, but needed all the same.

Jordan, ranked 25 places below the visitors at 82, will be a different proposition in Amman. The record between these two nations is evenly matched. Out of 15 meetings — none of which has taken place in qualification for the World Cup — Saudi Arabia have won seven with Jordan winning six.

There are other similarities: Both national teams made big coaching hires in the summer. Mancini, winner of the English Premier League with Manchester City and the European Championships with Italy, arrived and then failed to win any of his first four games before taking on Pakistan, ranked all the way down at 193.

Jordan picked up Hussein Ammouta. The Moroccan has also had plenty of success, winning the Qatar Stars League with Al-Sadd in 2013 before taking Wydad to the African Champions League title in 2017. His appointment was seen as a coup by the Jordan Football Association although fans have largely felt