Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0 Iraq 3

Recap: Palestine reshuffled the line-up and took a more conservative approach to the game, Abusidu started on the bench as Harbi got a run out at right back. Haitham Dheeb and Murad Said replaced the suspended duo of Bahdari and Wadi respectively. The other changes saw Abu Saleh take Ismail Amour's place on the right and Mohammed Jamal play alongside Ahmed Keshkesh.

Iraq's first goal came out of nowhere, Hatem Karim was badly injured after limited contact with his namesake Mustafa Karim who was left one-on-one by an unsuspecting Ramzi Saleh. The injury was so bad that Karim had to be stretchered off and replaced by Abusidu. Iraq really didn't do much after that, then again neither did Palestine their best two chances coming off of two free kicks.

Manager Mousa Bezaz tried to get the team in a more attacking mood by replacing Abu Saleh with Amour and later bringing on Fahed Attal for Khader Yousef after going 2-0 down. Iraq's second goal came off of a clever set piece and their third came from the spot with Haitham Dheeb resorting to a rugby tackle to prevent Iraq from scoring after Ahmed Harbi's played the ball directly to an on-rushing Iraqi player. Dheeb was sent off for his troubles and Nashat Akram converted the penalty.

What it means: Palestine crash out of yet another WAFF tournament without a win to their name. Not surprising but a little disappointing seeing as how Palestine were cruising during their first 43 minutes against Yemen. Bezaz used this game to see how some of the fringe players would play against a stronger side like Iraq. Some did well (Murad Said playing out of position) others failed the test (Ahmed Harbi played a major part in two goals). Bezaz must now look a little harder for some new players to come in and replace those who have underwhelmed.

Positives: For long stretches of the game, Iraq was made to look pedestrian. This was accomplished without Abdelatif Bahdari and Palestine's only true holding midfielder Houssam Wadi.

Negatives: Lack of imagination on set piece plays, Palestine opted for a hit-and-hope approach. A team like Palestine must have 5-10 set piece plays that they practice over and over until perfection... against stronger teams set pieces represent our best chance of scoring.

Star Player: Suleiman Obeid, the revelation of the tournament, showed that he is capable of making the step up to the national team level after representing Palestine at the Olympic level.

Flops: Ahmad Harbi was given a chance and he showed he doesn't belong he made a schoolboy error on the play that lead to the Iraq penalty and was out of position on the second goal as well. Fahed Attal lost his place in the squad, it has been four years since he last scored a goal (his goal against Terek Grozny excepted) and he didn't provide much of a spark in tonight's game. He only needs 3 goals to equal Ziyad Al-Kord as Palestine's all-time leading scorer... but he just can't buy a goal at the moment.

Bezaz's Future: His contract is up on June 30, 2011. Which is right in the middle of World Cup Qualifying. He seems to have his teams prepared but his squad selection leaves a little to be desired. Ahmed Harbi over Faisaly's Shareef Adnan? That's a curious decision.

Highlights: 1st Half // 2nd Half

What's next: A rumored friendly against Timor Leste in November?

Preview: Palestine vs. Iraq

WAFF Group C Match
Where: King Abdullah II Stadium, Amman, Jordan
When: 1700 GMT (1900 Local Time)
TV: Al Jazeera Sport 2, Abu Dhabi Sport +2, Kuwait Sport, Iraq Sport, Oman 2, and Saudi Sport

A do-or-die match tonight for Palestine, to advance they must beat Iraq by two goals and without their defensive talisman Abdelatif Bahdari. Palestine has never beaten Iraq and the closest they came were two comeback draws in 2006 World Cup Qualifying (1-1) and 2007 Asian Cup Qualifying (2-2). Iraq's defence has looked vulnerable in the three games under new manager Wolfgang Sidka as a result of notable absentees such as Bassim Abbas (Konyaspor, Turkey), Ali Rehema (Al-Wakra, Qatar), and Salam Shakir (Al-Khor, Qatar).

In all three games under Sidka Iraq has looked very vulnerable they gave up four goals to Jordan, two (and a missed penalty) to Oman, and were put to the test against Yemen.

For Palestine's part the players will need to rebound from an emotionally and physically draining loss against Yemen. They will be without Abdelatif Bahdari and Houssam Wadi, so the starting eleven that did so well during the first half against Yemen will have to be reshuffled. There might be a reappearance of Majed Abusidu in defensive midfield with Hussam Abu Saleh slotting in a rightback. The other scenario would see Hesham Al-Salhe take Wadi's place in midfield. Haitham Dheeb is expected to replace Abdelatif Bahdari in defence.

Iraq will need to shuffle their backline as well after Mohammed Qabel received two yellow cards and an ejection against Yemen. Salih Sadir and Mahdi Karim are also out with injuries.

Probable Starting XI: Ramzi Saleh (C), Abusidu, Dheeb, Karim, Hijazi; Amour, Salhe, Khader Yousef, Obeid; Keshkesh, Attal.

Prediction: Palestine 2 Iraq 2

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WAFF Update: Palestine control their own destiny

[CORRECTION 9/29]: 24 hours after Lady Luck departed Palestine's side she made a dramatic return to Palestinian arms. In today's early game, Oman failed to hold on to a 2-1 lead after Iran had been reduced to 10 men. With the late game ending in a 2-2 draw after a dramatic Kuwaiti comeback Jordan was officially eliminated after only mustering 2 points having thrown away another lead during the tournament. Bahrain who are on three points but with a -1 goal differential have also been eliminated.

Here are all possible qualification scenarios:

Iraq win by any score: Iraq wins Group C and faces Iran. Yemen faces Kuwait as best runner-up.
Iraq & Palestine draw: Iraq wins Group C and faces Iran. Yemen faces Kuwait as best runner-up.

Palestine wins by 1 goal: Yemen wins Group C and faces Iran. Iraq faces Kuwait as best runner-up
Palestine wins by 2 goals: Yemen wins Group C and faces Iran. Palestine faces Kuwait as best runner-up
Palestine wins 3-0: Tiebreaker (unknown) decides winner of Group C (Either Yemen or Palestine).
Palestine wins by three or more goals: Palestine wins Group C, Yemen qualifies as runner-up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1 Yemen 3

[UPDATE]: Upon reviewing the game it seems that Abdelatif Bahdari was sent off on a double yellow, which is all well and good except he didn't have a first yellow to begin with. That might go a ways to explaining why the players surrounded Darwish after showing the red card. The first yellow card was given to Abusidu and in case you haven't noticed those two look nothing alike. The FA should try and appeal Bahdari's red card because it seems to be the result of a giant mixup on the part of the referee.

What it means:
Palestine will need to register its first ever victory against Iraq on Wednesday to have any hopes of going through in the competition. They will have to do it without two starters tonight Husam Wadi and Abdelatif Bahdari who were both wrongly sent off by Jordanian referee Nasser Darwish. With a goal difference of -2 they'll probably have to do it by more than one goal as well.

Positives: There are many positives to take in the loss. The midfield was a lot better and there was some serious attacking intent by the side although they were foiled by poor finishing and Yemeni goalkeeper Salim Awad.

Star Players: Suleiman Obeid was a revelation in the first half and got a deserved second half goal... Ismail Amour tortured Yemen's left wingback and was repeatedly getting into the box and sending crosses in. Ramzi Saleh did well after Bahdari's sending off.

Flops: There aren't many people to choose from, maybe Attal and Keshkesh should have done better with the chances that came to them in the first half. You can't even fault the Majed Abusidu for giving up the penalty because replays showed that the Yemeni player was guilty of kicking out. The biggest disappointment has to be the referee, his decisions totally turned the match on its head. A phantom penalty gave Yemen the lead and a couple of minutes later he sent Bahdari off for a 50-50 challenge on the Yemeni Keeper. I'm not one to blame referees for losses, but Yemen can count themselves lucky. Palestine was dominant in the first 40 minutes of the match, Yemen had one real chance while Palestine had more than half a dozen.

Mousa Bezaz's Future: While his squad selection leaves a little to be desired, this tournament was always going to be a referendum on whether or not Bezaz got a contract extension. So far, so good for the Franco-Algerian the first half was some of the best football Palestine has played in the last three years. The squad was prepared and his substitutions particularly the introduction of Murad Said were astute. In order to cement his future he needs to get the team up for the fight against Iraq without the likes Bahdari and Wadi.

Full Highlights (courtesy of MBC's Sada Al-Malaeb)
2-1 (S. Obeid)

What's Next: Palestine vs. Iraq Wednesday 9/29/2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preview: Palestine vs. Yemen

What: WAFF Group C Match
When: September 27th, 19:00 GMT+2
Where: King Abdullah II Stadium, Amman, Jordan
TV: Al Jazeera Sport 2 [CORRECTION]

Iraq edged Yemen out in a 2-1 thriller to kick off the games in Group C on Saturday. While the result was expected the manner in which was achieved was very surprising. Yemen put the Iraqi defence under a lot of pressure early on and they were rewarded with a goal by talisman Ali Al-Nono. Iraq managed to claw their way back with a feisty but less than convincing performance (First and Second Half Highlights). In many ways, this is the first time Palestine participates in a WAFF Championship not as rank outsiders. That said, Yemen is not to be underestimated they have a forward that is scoring for fun at the moment and shutting him down will be the key to winning this match. For Palestine, the big names need to be at their best Abdelatif Bahdari, Majed Abusidu, and GK Ramzi Saleh will need to organize and defend against the rapid Yemeni attack. Whilst in attack, Al-Amour, Keshkesh, and Attal need to keep possession and test Yemen's vulnerable defence.

Probable Starting XI (4-5-1): Saleh (C), Majed Abusidu, Abdelatif Bahdari, Hatem Karim, Ahmed Harbi; Ismail Al-Amour, Husam Wadi, Suleiman Obeid, Mohammed Jamal, Ahmed Keshkesh; Fahed Attal

Prediction: Palestine 1 Yemen 0

Let us know your predictions in the comments question, get it right and you'll be rewarded with a non-monetary prize.

WAFF Update

-Iraq has defeated Yemen 2-1 putting Yemen in a tough position ahead of facing Palestine on Monday

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scouting the Opponent: Iraq

FIFA Rank:
(T-107th)(16th in Asia)
Previous Encounters: 11 (0-2-8)
2007 WAFF L 0-1
2004 WAFF L 1-2
2002 WAFF L 0-2

2010 Results:
Friendly v. Jordan L 1-4
Friendly v. Oman W 2-3

WAFF Squad: Wolfgang Sidka took over the Iraqi post only last month and has inherited a talented squad, but one searching to find its identity after a 10-month international ban. Defensively, Sidka's Iraq couldn't be further from the squad we saw last year at the Confederations Cup, and have been exposed on the counter, especially on the flanks, in their last two friendlies. They will be missing many quality players who were not released by their Qatari clubs as well as Konyaspor wingback Bassim Abbas.

Key Players: Some familiar names in the squad include GK Mohammed Gassid and midfield trio of Karrar Jassim, Nashat Akram, and Hawar Mulla Mohammed. Unless Iraq can fix their problems at the back these four will need to carry the team Gassid will have to step up and make big saves, like his backup-Ali Mutasher did against Oman, saving a penalty and making numerous saves. In attack it is going to fall to the experienced players to step up, Akram and Hawar will need to show that they are not past their primes. In midfield, the Lions of Mesopotamia must make life difficult for the opponent and allow them less time on the ball.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FInal squad announced... with the help of the IDF

As has been the norm with almost every squad Palestine has announced over the past decade Israel has decided to weigh in. It has determined that defender Khaled Mahdi, defensive midfielder Maaly Kaware, playmaker Ayman Al-Hendi and backup goalkeeper Mohammed Shbair (who only just was allowed back into the West Bank by Israel) were denied travel.

Manager Mousa Bezaz had originally needed to whittle down six of the players that had participated in the Al-Ram training camp. Due to Israeli interference, however, Bezaz now only has to cut two players although you can be assured that not everyone who had a good camp is included in the squad. The other two players who did not make the cut are Jabal Al-Mokaber's fraternal duo Shadi and Jamal Allan.

Here is what the final squad looks like:


Ramzi Saleh (Al-Merreikh, Sudan), Abdullah Al-Saidawi (Hilal Al-Quds), Fahed Al-Fakhuri (Thaqafi Tulkarem)


Ahmed Harbi (Al-Am'ary), Abdelatif Bahdari (Wehdat, Jordan), Hatem Karim (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Haitham Dheeb (Hilal Al-Quds), Samer Hijazi (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait)


Hussam Abu Saleh (Hilal Al-Quds), Ismail Al Amour (Jabal Al-Mokaber), Suleiman Obeid (Al-Am'ary), Khader Yousef, Ashraf Nu'man (both Wadi Al-Nes), Hesham Salhe (Hilal Al-Quds), Housam Wadi (Jabal Al-Mokaber)


Mohammed Jamal (Al-Bireh), Murad Said (Hilal Al-Quds), Ahmed Keshkesh, Fahed Attal (Both Wehdat, Jordan)



Sunday, September 19, 2010

More on WAFF Preparation

Both Group C rivals were in action this week as Yemen and Iraq failed to impress against Zambia and Jordan respectively.

The defending Asian Cup champions were thoroughly humbled by a Jordanian side missing some key players who were tied to their clubs in Europe and Saudi Arabia. 4-1 was the final score and it was 2-0 after 20 minutes. By all accounts it was a comfortable victory for the Jordanians who had only beaten Iraq twice before in 46 years. Iraqi football commentators are not feeling very confident at the moment, the general consensus being that the squad is in need of a shake up and that stars Hawar Mulla Mohammed and Nashat Akram are past their prime as evidenced by their free agent status. (We will have a full scouting report on Iraq after they face off against Oman on the 21st).

Yemen who are looking like the most prepared side in the group fell 1-0 to an under strength Zambia side made up of 16 domestically based players. Perhaps giving more credence to the theory that Yemen's wins over Bahrain and Syria were the result of home field advantage, weakened/experimental squads, and general flukiness.

As for Al-Fursan they are currently finishing up training in Al-Ram and are expected to depart to Amman on Wednesday. Manager Mousa Bezaz has decided not to trim the squad down until the final day of training. The squad is expected to made up of 20 players, five of whom have already punched their ticket: Captain Ramzi Saleh, Wehdat trio Abdelatif Bahdari, Fahed Attal, Ahmed Keshkesh, and Kuwait based Majed Abusidu.

Training has focused on getting the team to transition quickly from defence to attack and off the ball movement. Bezaz has the players training twice a day with a morning session focused on strengthening fitness levels. Reports out of the training camp have been positive and Mousa Bezaz is said to be happy with the performance of the players.

FA President Jibril Rajoub also stopped by training to address the players in overly clich├ęd prose. Rajoub also stated his intent to add a north and south stand to the Faisal Al-Husseini Memorial Stadium. He also said that a German fitness team would visit training camp and run fitness tests on the players, a service most developed national teams already have at their disposal.

In other news, JA Drancy midfielder Mohammed Shatreet expressed his disappointment in not being included in Bezaz's side. The France based player told Atlas Sport that his contract is up in January and that Al-Bireh and Al-Am'ary have offered him a chance to play in Palestine. Shatreet said that he would study their offers and make a decision later on in the season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scouting the Opponent: Yemen

FIFA Rank: (T-107) (17th in Asia)
Previous Encounters: None at Senior Level.
2010 AFC U-19 Qualifying: D 2-2
2008 Olympic Qualifying: L 1-2, D 1-1
2006 AFC U-19 Qualifying: L 0-3

2010 Results: [UPDATED: 9/18/2010]

Friendly v. Tajikistan L 0-1
Asian Cup Q. v. Japan L 2-3
Friendly v. Kenya W 3 -1
Asian Cup Q. v. Bahrain W 3-0
Friendly @ Malaysia L 0-1
Asian Cup Q. @ Hong Kong D 0-0
Unofficial v. Togo U-20 D 0-0
Unofficial v. Togo U-20 W 2-1
Friendly v. Malawi W 1-0
Friendly v. Oman L 0-1
Unofficial v. Burkina Faso D 2-2
Unofficial v. Macedonia L 0-1
Unofficial @ Manisaspor L 2-1
Friendly v. Syria W 2-1
Friendly v. Zambia L 0-1
Overall: 5W 3D 7L (GF: 16 GA: 15)

WAFF Squad: ٍSrecko Juricic doesn't have many foreign based players to choose from but has created a tightly knit unit that is much improved. Yemen have secured positive results at home having beaten experimental Bahraini and Syrian sides. On the road they have been far less successful losing to Malaysia and Manispor and drawing Hong Kong 0-0 in an Asian Cup Qualifier. In fact, the Yemenis haven't won away from San'a for over four years. Their last away victory was a 3-0 Asian Cup Qualifying triumph over India in early 2006. Yemen is also expected to be the least cosmopolitan squad in Group C, with the only foreign based player being Goalkeeper Salim Saeed of Oman's Al-Nasr.

Key Players: Although Yemen is famous for its political instability its footballing infrastructure has been slowly improving over the past decade. Yemen qualified for the U17 FIFA World Cup in 2003 and there are a couple of holdovers in the present squad (Midfielders Akram Al-Worafi and Khaled Baleid). The goals come from the brilliantly named Ali Al-Nono, Yemen has a good record when he finds the back of the of winning.

WAFF Training camp underway

Palestine has just completed its first two days of preparation for the WAFF tournament with 21 players participating in the Al-Ram camp. One notable absentee is Fahed Attal who attempted to cross into the West Bank by land numerous times, only to be turned away with no reason given by the Israeli Occupying Authority. As a result, Attal was unable to visit his hometown of Qalqilya and spend Eid with his family and has subsequently missed out on training with the WBPL players.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Ahmed Keshkesh presented Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh with a Wehdat Jersey. Kehskesh is currently taking some time off and will meet up with the rest of the team on September 22nd (All five based International players will join the camp on this date) in Amman. His club team will take advantage of the stoppage in league play by playing a friendly in Gaza against Riyadi Gaza. Wehdat's Croatian manager, Dragan, sees the friendly as an opportunity to keep match fitness at a high level amongst the players not participating in the WAFF tourney.

In other news, the Olympic squad is also taking advantage of the international break by meeting up to prepare for the upcoming Asian Games and Olympic Qualifying tournament. They'll be in training starting from September 22nd to October 1oth. Olympic Team Manager Mokhtar "Dinosaur" Talili has also arranged for the team to play five practice matches against WBPL clubs during this time period. Twenty players have been called to take part in preparations the two most notable are (and probably could have been in Bezaz WAFF squad):

Nadim Al-Barghouthi (Al-Bireh):
Represented the senior team at 2010 Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Nepal and also received a call-up last month for the Mauritania friendly. Will be asked to anchor the defence and lead from the back.

Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb (Balata):
An emerging midfield talent who notched up two goals during the Yasser Arafat Cup and is a big reason why (he has three goals in four games in the league) newly promoted Balata are top of the table.

Talili's Olympic Squad: Daud Al-Radaideh, Tawfiq Ali, Jamal Safaqa, Ahmed Salameh, Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, Ahmed Shubtieh, Hamezeh Wahdan, Ali Al-Khateeb, Abd El-Salameen, Thaer Qaraeen, Amjad Zidane, Mohammed Khweis, Jehad Saqr, Khaled Salem, Mohammed Abadi, Sajed Krakrah, Nadeem Al-Barghouthi, Mustafa Abu Quq, Aladdin Yameen

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WBPL on break, WAFF preparation gets underway

So the first three weeks of the West Bank Premier League have ended and there have been surprises aplenty. Newly promoted Shabab Balata of Nablus are top of the table after two wins and one draw against Shabab Al-Khaleel, Merkaz Tulkarem, and Al-Dhahrieh respectively. While favorites Wadi Al-Nes have stumbled by losing two of their first three matches after starting the season off by capturing the Yasser Arafat Cup and the Palestinian Supercup. And in good news for the most successful club in the league's history- Mohammed Shbair was finally allowed entry into the West Bank and will join up with Shabab Al-Khaleel after the break.

Unfortunately for many of the players that have started off the season strong, Mousa Bezaz was forced to submit his squad to the AFC before the first match day. As a result, some of the players that have impressed have missed out. While another section of players were ignored because Bezaz elected to have them train with Olympic squad in preparation for the Asian Games in November and the Olympic Qualifiers early next year.

Bezaz has also faced an uphill battle calling up foreign-based players for the tournament because the games are not on FIFA sanctioned matchdays. Bezaz wanted to call up Imad Zatara (M, Syrianska), Mohammed Shatrit (M, JA Drancy), Mohammed Samara (M, Arab Contractors), and Roberto Bishara (D, Palestino). These absences will leave a familiar void at left-back and in the middle of the pitch. Players who will be joining the squad are: Ramzi Saleh (GK, Al-Merreikh), Abdelatif Bahdari (D, Wehdat), Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait), Fahed Attal (F, Wehdat), and Ahmed Keshkesh (F, Wehdat).

The team will start their preparations on September 13th in Al-Ram and will travel to Jordan on the 22nd before facing Yemen on the 27th. The rest of the squad 26 man squad looks like this:

Thaqafi Tulkarem: Fahed Al-Fakhuri (GK)

Jabal Al-Mokaber: Samer Hijazi (DF), Hatem Karim (DF), Husam Wadi (DF), Shadi Alan (MW), Jamal Alan (FW), Ismail Amour (MF).

Al-Am'ary: Ahmed Harbi (DF), Khaled Mahdi (DF), Ma'ly Kaware' (MF), Suleiman Obeid (MF)

Wadi Al-Nes: Khader Yousef (MF), Ashraf Nu'man (MF/FW)

Hilal Al-Quds: Abdullah Saidawi (GK), Haitham Dheeb (DF), Murad Said (FW), Husam Abu Saleh (MF), Hisham Al-Salihi (MF)

Al-Bireh: Mohammed Jamal (FW)

Shabab Al-Khaleel: Mohammed Shbair (GK), Ayman Al-Hendi (MF)

During the most recent international break, Yemen, who are in Palestine's WAFF group upset Syria in a friendly, 2-1. The other opponent in Group C, Iraq haven't played a competitive match in 10 months due to a FIFA ban was imposed due to government interference in the FA's affairs.