Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pictures, Videos, and More: Palestine celebrates Asian Cup qualification.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words- so instead of our usual Rapid Reaction piece we decided to give you a taste of what the epic 1-0 win over Philippines meant to Palestinians all over the world.

This is a truly Palestinian victory our 23-man squad hails from the West Bank, Gaza, cities on the other side of the Green line, communities in refugee camps, and the diaspora.

A big thanks to the 23 players and the coaching staff. We'll see you in Australia! For those looking to make the trip, tickets go on sale June 2nd on

We would like to thank the nation of the Maldives for their excellent support. The atmosphere your fans created in all five games was nothing short of amazing. You cheered us on as if we were your own team and you will forever occupy a special place in our hearts and history books.

To the Philippines you were more than a worthy opponent and on another day, the trophy may have been on its way to Manila. I am confident that if you continue on this path we will see you on the big stage in 2019. The outpouring of support for the national team from Azkal supporters has been nothing short of amazing.

I would personally like to dedicate this victory to Sameh Mar'aba who remains illegally incarcerated in an Israeli jail without charge. He should have been part of the squad that made history. Sameh is one of many Palestinians who are currently being held by Israel without charge and we hope that his victory allows them a fleeting moment of joy as they continue their hunger strikes. #مي_و_ملح.

This victory is also for every single player and coach that donned a Palestine shirt over the last seven decades without recognition. You laid the foundation that made our present reality possible. A special shoutout to Azmi Nassar who is no longer with us but would have been so proud.

For those looking for a match recap- you can find a pretty good one here. You can watch highlights of the victory here or relive the entire match here.

Post Match Press Conference 

More pictures and video after the jump....

Friday, May 30, 2014

Palestine win Challenge Cup, clinch berth at 2015 Asian Cup

Ashraf Nu'man's 57th goal was enough to seal it. Palestine blanked the Philippines 1-0 to win the final edition of the AFC Challenge Cup trophy. Ramzi Saleh and an impeccable defence ensured that their barrier would not be breached for a fifth straight game. Including the qualifying rounds Palestine has kept a clean sheet for a whopping 12 hours of play. 

Ashraf Nu'man was awarded with the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer with four goals.  

Murad Ismail was voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player. 

Palestine will be placed in Group D at next year's AFC Asian Cup alongside holders Japan, 2007 champions Iraq, and rivals Jordan. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Scouting the Opponent: Philippines (2014 Challenge Cup Final)

Who's taking it home?

When: May 30th, 2014
Kickoff: 1600 GMT+1 
Where: Galolhu National Stadium, Malé, Maldives
TV: BeIn Sports  // Follow the action Live on YouTube. (You can use Hola to unlock the channel if you are in the MENA region)

FIFA Rank: 140th (21st in AFC)

Previous Encounters:
19/03/2012 // Kathmandu, Nepal // 2012 AFC Asian Challenge Cup L 3-4
27/03/2011 // Rangon, Myanmar // 2012 Challenge Cup Qualifying D 0-0

Recent Results: 
27/05/2014 v. Maldives W (3-2 aet)
24/05/2014 v. Turkmenistan W 2-0
22/05/2014 v. Laos W 2-0
20/05/2014 v. Afghanistan D 0-0
27/04/2014 v. Malaysia D 0-0

More after the jump...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 2:0 Afghanistan (2014 Challenge Cup)

Ashraf Nu'man: Palestine's talisman once again.

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1):  Saleh (C); Fares, Bahdari, Jarun, Jaber; Abu Saleh, Murad Ismail, Abu Jazar, Musa; Abuhabib; Nu'man. 

Cautions: Abuhabib 19', Ashraf Nu'man 73', Tamer Seyam 82' 

Substitutions: Tamer Seyam <-> Hilal Musa 65' // Imad Zatara <-> Ashraf Nu'man 86' // Ahmed Maher <-> Abu Saleh 90+2'. 


Full Match Info After the Jump....

Monday, May 26, 2014

Scouting the Opponent: Afghanistan

When: May 27th, 2014
Kickoff: 1130 GMT 
Where: Galolhu National Stadium, Malé, Maldives
TV: BeIn Sports 4 // Follow the action Live on YouTube. (You can use Hola to unlock the channel if you are in the MENA region)

FIFA Rank: 128th (18th in AFC)

Previous Encounters:
29/06/2011 // Tursunzoda, Tajikistan // 2014 World Cup Qualifying 2-0
03/07/2011 // Al-Ram, Palestine // 2014 World Cup Qualifying D 1-1

Recent Results: 
24/05/2014 v. Laos D 0-0
22/05/2014 v. Turkmenistan W 3-1
20/05/2014 v. Philippines D 0-0
14/05/2014 @ Kuwait L 2-3
12/05/2014 v. Kyrgyzstan W 1-0
04/05/2014 @ Tajikistan L 0-1

More after the jump...

Palestine up to the Challenge

Palestine players salute Maldives fans and express solidarity with brethren behind bars

I was most concerned about the opening match, especially with the training camp going (or not going) the way it did. Topping that off we were pitted against Kyrgyzstan, who nixed our challenge cup aspirations twice before, and whose manager boasted about playing 20 friendlies in the lead up to the tournament. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by the commanding, fighting performance on the pitch which led up to Abuhabeeb's stoppage time net ripper. Perhaps the extra competitive nature of the WBPL this year is to thank for that. 

Jamal Mahmoud approached the Maldives game with the right philosophy, and to their credit, the Red Snappers gave the home fans a performance to cheer about. After the final whistle blew, the TV cameras captured the Maldives manager, team and fans holding back their celebrations until they got word about the result of the Kyrgyzstan - Myanmar match. It was one of those beautiful football moments when the stadium erupted.

Afghanistan was held to a 0-0 draw by Laos meaning rather than topping Group B (as had been expected) they finished runners up to face Palestine in the semis. We tee'd ourselves up for a Philippines semi-final and to be honest, I preferred it that way. Might as well duke it out early. 

Afghanistan are a team that have prepared well and have some select players that can cause trouble. Their domestic league has notably developed since we last faced, and they've picked up a 2013 SAFF trophy on the way. They could be in a less than ideal situation with players unavailable due to the team bus crash, but I don't see that handicapping them too much.

Expect a tense 90 minutes with Afghanistan playing on the counter. I wouldn't venture to predict a scoreline just yet, but I would be surprised if Palestine's positive record against South Asian opposition was contradicted.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rapid Reaction: Maldives 0:0 Palestine (2014 Challenge Cup)

Captain. Centurion. Legend.

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Ramzy Saleh (C); Al-Battat, Jarun, Dheeb, Fares; Abu Saleh, Murad Ismail, Abu Jazr, Ahmed Maher; Musa; Musalmeh

Substitutions: Abuhabib <-> Ahmed Maher 46' // Bahdari <-> Murad Ismail 61' // Seyam <-> Musalmeh 85'

Cautions: Al-Battat 20', Ahmed Maher 35', Abu Saleh 50', Raed Fares 72'  


Full Match info after jump.....

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scouting the Opponent: Maldives

When: May 23rd, 2014
Kickoff: 1700 GMT 
Where: Galolhu National Stadium, Malé, Maldives
TV: BeIn Sports 6 // Follow the action Live on YouTube

FIFA Rank: 153rd (29th in AFC)

Previous Encounters:
12/03/2012 // Kathmandu, Nepal // 2012 AFC Challenge Cup W 2-0

Recent Results:

21/05/2014 v. Kyrgyzstan W 2-0
19/05/2014 v. Myanmar L 2-3
13/05/2014 v. Laos W 7-1

Thursday, May 22, 2014

2014 Challenge Cup Progression Scenarios

Confusion reigns at the AFC.

With two full match days now behind us its time to assess the damage and weigh the chances each of the final eight participants have of progressing to the Semifinal stage. Earlier today, there was some confusion regarding three-way ties. So much so, that even the official Asian Cup account didn't know what was going on (see above)

Full List of Scenarios after the jump....

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 2:0 Myanmar (2014 Challenge Cup)

Nu'man inspired Palestine to victory. 
Palestine Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Ramzi Saleh (c); Al-Battat, Bahdari, Mahdi, Jaber; Maher, Khader Yousef, Abujazr, Seyam; Nu'man, Abuhabib

Substitutions: Murad Ismail <-> Khader Yousef 17' // Abu Saleh <-> Maher 65' // Bahdari <-> Dheeb 82'  

Cautions: Ashraf Nu'man 18', Musa Abujazr 28', Tamer Seyam 53' 

Goals: Abuhabib 45+4', Ashraf Nu'man 50' 

Full Match Info after the jump...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Scouting the Opponent: Myanmar

When: 21/05/2014 1200 GMT
Where: Galolhu National Stadium, Malé, Maldives
TV: BeIn Sports 6 // Follow the action Live on YouTube

FIFA Rank: 173rd (38th in Asia)

Previous Encounters
25/03/2011 // Yangon, Myanmar// 2012 Challenge Cup Qualifying  W 3-1 

Recent Results 

19/05/2014 @ Maldives W 3-2 
02/05/2014 v. Singapore Lions XII W 2-1

Full Preview after the jump...

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1:0 Kyrgyzstan (2014 Challenge Cup)

Abuhabib celebrates his dramatic winner.

Palestine Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ramzi Saleh (C), Fares, Dheeb, Mahdi, Jaber; Ismail, Khader Yousef; Abu Saleh, Musa, Seyam; Musallmeh. 

Substitutions: Ashraf Nu'man <-> Musallmeh 51' // Abuhabib <-> Musa 65' // Bahdari <-> Abu Saleh 87' 

Cautions: Dheeb 68', Jaber 90+1 

Goals: Abuhabib 90+6'

Full Match recap after the jump....

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scouting the Opponent: Kyrgyzstan

When: 19/05/2014 1200 GMT
Where: Galolhu National Stadium, Malé, Maldives
TV: BeIn Sports 6 // Follow the action Live on YouTube

FIFA Rank: 146th (24th in Asia)

Previous Encounters
30/03/2009 // Kathmandu, Nepal// 2010 Challenge Cup Qualifying  D 1-1 
09/04/2006 // Dhaka, Bangladesh// 2006 Challenge Cup L  0-1  

Recent Results 

16/05/2014 @ Kuwait D 2-2 
12/05/2014 v. Afghanistan L 0-1
13/04/2014 v. Afghanistan D 0-0 
19/11/2013 @ Indonesia L 0-4
01/11/2013 v. Azerbaijan D 0-0

Full Preview after the jump...

Watch: Palestine in the AFC Challenge Cup

The AFC will be live-streaming the action from the Maldives on Youtube (not available to viewers in the Mideast last I checked).

For those of you in the Middle East, beIN sports will be broadcasting Palestine's matches - the first being against Kyrgyzstan on Monday May 19th at 1100 GMT. Tune in to beIN Sports 6HD.

Happy watching!

(For those of you without the beIN package- I would recommend using a Chrome extension called Hola to disguise your VPN in order to access the live stream on YouTube).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Final Challenge Cup Squad Announced

Sameh Mara'ba: Unlawfully detained
A slightly subdued squad announcement with promising attacker Sameh Mara'ba languishing in an Israeli cell for nearly three weeks. The Ismali Qalqilya player was set to make the jump to the senior team but was detained without charge after returning from the national team training camp in Qatar.

Although teams can call up 23 players; Jamal Mahmoud has chosen to only call up 21.

Five foreign based players are included in the squad; the most surprising inclusion is perhaps Omar Jarun who returns from an 18-month absence. Ramzi Saleh will captain the team while the team will lean on the experience and expertise of Abdelatif Bahdari, Murad Ismail, and Imad Zatara.

The attacking triumverate of Hilal Musa, Tamer Seyam, and Rami Musallmeh could make their official debuts in the Maldives. All three showed a knack for finishing during training camp and will be counted on to complement Zatara and Ashraf Nu'man.

Full squad after the jump...