Friday, March 22, 2013

Rapid Reaction: Kuwait 2:1 Palestine (Friendly)

Game-changer: Ashraf Nu'man


Palestine Starting XI (4-4-2): Ramzi Saleh (C); Husam Abu Saleh, Haitham Dheeb, Khaled Mahdi, Moussa Abu Jazar; Suleiman Obeid, Khader Yousef, Murad Ismail, Imad Zatara; Ashraf Nu'man, Eyad Abugharqud. 

Goals: Ashraf Nu'man 34'

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Squad for Kuwait & Malaysia Friendlies Announced

For the second time in three months: Kuwait vs. Palestine

National Team manager Jamal Mahmoud has unveiled a list of 24 players who will travel to face Kuwait and Malaysia in two upcoming friendlies this week. Amongst the players selected there are six who ply their trade abroad. Captain Ramzi Saleh will take his place in goal as he inches closer to becoming Palestine's first centurion, joining him are Abdelatif Bahdari, Daniel Kabir Mustafá, Imad Zatara, and the Al-Faisaly duo of Khader Yousef and Ashraf Nu'man.

Left back Alexis Norambuena was called up but withdrew after picking up an ankle injury in Jagiellonia Bialystok's 2-0 over Polonia Warszawa.

UPDATE: The Gaza-based triumvirate of Alaa Attieh, Fadi Jaber, and Houssam Wadi were not released by their clubs for these friendlies. Saudi-based Abdelatif Bahdari also was barred from traveling by Hajer. Daniel Mustafá did not make the trip and was replaced by Haitham Dheeb. 

The complete list after the jump... 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Challenge Cup Qualifying Wrapup

Eye on the Ball: Haitham Dheeb was a two-way threat during CCQ

Well, that was interesting. Four days, two grind out affairs, and a blowout win, now has Palestine one step closer to a first-ever appearance at an AFC Asian Cup. It wasn't inspiring by any stretch of the imagination but anytime a team can string together three clean sheets in succession; good things are bound to happen.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of player performance and tactics it is worth putting this accomplishment in perspective. Games on the road are tough and Palestine play nearly every match, friendly or otherwise, outside the confines of the Holy Land. In qualifying for a major tournament, national teams tend to follow the formula of "Win at home; draw on the road." In attempting to qualify and for the 2014 Challenge Cup and 2015 AFC Asian Cup, Palestine had to do it all on the road.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yalla!


Palestine were all smiles in Nepal today despite playing out a dull 0-0 draw with the hosts. The point earned was enough to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. It would be appropriate to categorize the squad fielded for these qualifiers as a 'reserve' side - key players were missing in the defense and the midfield since they couldn't be released by their clubs - but the WBPL and Gaza players, as expected, were able to finish the job with no trouble.

Jamal Mahmoud has a long year ahead of him, his goal now is to build the team that will win the Challenge Cup - which itself is a means to an end: a spot at the 2015 Asian Cup. We could be off to a good start with friendlies with Kuwait and Malaysia already set for this month.

There was plenty of hope and heartbreak today among the nations attempting to qualify - Afghanistan came from behind despite a red card to equalize with Laos in their Group C match, the result they needed to win the group. India were set to qualify in Group A but hosts Myanmar had other plans. In the deciding match, a lone goal by substitute Soe Min Oo against the Blue Tigers propelled Myanmar into first place and India's fate now depends on the outcomes of the other groups - they can still qualify as one of the two best runners-up depending on how the other groups turn out.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Challenge Cup Qualifiers - Standings

Group D Standings



02/03/2013
Palestine 1-0 Bangladesh
Nepal 6-0 Northern Mariana Islands

04/03/2013
Palestine 9-0 Northern Mariana Islands
Nepal 0-2 Bangladesh

06/03/2013
Nepal vs. Palestine
Bangladesh vs. Northern Mariana Islands

Palestine have a straightforward task going into matchday 3. A win or a draw both guarantee qualification to next year's AFC Challenge Cup. Palestine can even get through on a loss depending on the results. In this case, Bangladesh could claim first place by scoring enough goals on NMI to better Palestine's goal difference (9 would probably do it). Nepal would have to beat Palestine by a 4 goal margin while hoping Bangladesh doesn't get an 8 goal win.

Of course this is heavily theoretical - the way it is looking Bangladesh will grab the runner-up spot which puts them in the running to qualify for the finals depending on how the other groups pan out.

Elsewhere, Afghanistan play Laos to determine the Group C winner and India play Myanmar to decide Group A (a draw will do for both India & Afghanistan).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Palestine 1-0 Bangladesh - Challenge Cup Qualifiers Matchday 1


Palestine Starting XI: Toufic Ali; Raed Fares, Haitham Deeb, Khaled Mahdi, Mousa Abujazr; Murad Ismail, Mahmoud Sheikh Qasem, Suleiman Obeid (C), Husam Abu Saleh, Abdelhamid Abuhabeeb; Eyad Abu Gharqoud

Subs: Wadi <-> Sheikh Qasem (39') // Asselah <-> Ismail (74') // Barakat <-> Abuhabeeb (76')

Bookings: Sheikh Qasem, Wadi, Fares (yellow)

Goal(s): Haitham Deeb (77')

The first half was marked by a cautious approach from both sides - though Palestine was the more dangerous with chances coming through Husam Abu Saleh and Murad Ismail who were denied by Bangladesh keeper Sahidul Alam. Abugharqoud went down in the box but the Malaysian referee decided it was not a penalty.

Bangladesh had a scoring chance when Khaled Mahdi's misplaced pass was picked up by Rana who lobbed it across the face of goal. Jamal Mahmoud made his first sub of the game replacing 'Al-Koori' with the veteran Husam Wadi. Abuhabeeb and Abugharqoud tried to find solutions in the Bangladesh box but the first half ended goalless.

Mahmoud's boys came back from the dressing room looking for a goal but were continuously denied by Bangladesh's Sahidul Alam. Palestine continued to win freekicks and corners while Bangladesh played on the counter-attack. Mahmoud put some fresh legs in the midfield, replacing Abuhabeeb with Barakat and Ismail with Aseelah. Shortly after, Palestine's efforts were rewarded. Husam Abu Saleh crossed the ball in to find captain Obeid who headed it across goal. A goalmouth melee ensued and Haitham Deeb made the most out of a deflection to slot it in. De Kruif made two substitutions to try to get Bangladesh back in the game but Palestine protected the lead.
 
In the post-match conference, De Kruif lamented his team's loss of concentration in the last half hour. Mahmoud was not happy with his players - saying that they did not play well and that it was luck that decided the match.Keeping in mind that Palestine travelled more, missed key players and have always had dodgy first matches under Mahmoud, I have to say I am impressed with Bangladesh - they are no pushovers and I fancy their chances against Nepal.

In the group's other match, Nepal thrashed the Northern Mariana Islands 6-0.
 
Matchday two sees Nepal take on Bangladesh while Palestine face the NMI. While the three points are all but guaranteed against the Islanders, Palestine will have to aim to surpass Nepal's 6-0 margin in order to go into the last matchday with less pressure. Coincidentally, Palestine's biggest ever win was 11-0 against NMI neighbours Guam. Since the NMIFA is not a full FIFA member, this will not be considered a full international.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Soundbytes - AFC CCQ Grouq D

Jamal Mahmoud: "We are here to win the group"

Group D of the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers kicks off tomorrow. Palestine face Bangladesh at 08:15 GMT while Nepal play the Northern Mariana Islands. Here are some highlights of what the teams have had to say: