Thursday, December 18, 2014

Countdown to Australia [22 days]: Recapping the road to the Asian Cup

With less than a month to go until Palestine's Asian Cup debut, it might be worth looking back at the matches that got us here. On the surface Palestine's 2014 AFC Challenge Cup campaign could look like a walk in the park with no goals conceded and minimal drama in the key fixtures. The reality is it was a solid squad with a great tactician at the helm navigating through a diverse set of opponents.

Read on to find a compilation of match highlights (courtesy of the AFC Hub) with links to our match reports - along with a little commentary.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Palestine narrowly fall to Uzbekistan 0-1 in Dubai

Palestine Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Toufic Ali; Al-Battat, Harbi, Saleh, Jaber; Salhe, Ismail; Ihbeisheh, Abuhabib, Amour; Eid. 

Also Participating: Khaled Salem, Khader Yousef, Mahmoud Sheikhqasem, Husam Abu Saleh, Musa Abujazr Ahmed Maher. 

The national team got a pomp ceremonial send-off in the Grand Park hotel in Ramallah last Wednesday before the players flew to Dubai where they were joined by Mahmoud Eid and Jaka Ihbeisheh.

The squad's readiness was soon put to the test with a friendly against the ever-stalwart Uzbeks. Since the match, which was played on a UAE FA training pitch, was not televised, we cannot say much about the play by play. But going by sources in the stands, Uzbekistan dominated the proceedings on the pitch with some bright sparks coming from the Palestine side. Ismail Amour proved a menace to the Uzbek defense only to be stretchered off after a particularly harsh tackle in the second half with his Asian Cup hopes in the balance. Uzbekistan's sustained pressure finally paid off in the 82nd minute when they got the winner despite claims that Ahmed Harbi was fouled in the lead up to the goal.

For a friendly against a top four Asian side at this stage of preparation, the result is not too bad. Especially considering that Numan, Bahdarai, Norambuena, DKM, and Jadue are yet to join the squad.

Next up, Palestine travel to Chenzhou to face China.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sameh Mar'aba Freed!

Sameh (L) being welcomed by his brother 
The Israeli Defense Forces have freed national team and Islami Qalqilya forward Sameh Mar'aba eight months after illegally detaining him. The promising young player was released from military detention just north of Nablus after an eight month detention which saw his 30-day term renewed eight times.

Mar'aba's family has decorated the streets of the town of Qalqilya to celebrate their son's return. Mara'aba was originally arrested upon his return from a national team training camp in Qatar at the Karameh border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

His arrest on the 28th of April prevented him from traveling with the team to the Maldives for the 2014 Challenge Cup and has also cost him a spot at the 2014 Asian Games and 2015 Asian Cup.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Palestine voted 2014 AFC National Team of the Year

Manila: Palestine, champions of the last edition of the AFC Challenge Cup, have been named as the AFC National Team of the Year at the AFC Annual Awards gala in the Philippine capital city on Sunday.
The West Asian national side beat the Philippines 1-0 in a thrilling finale in the Maldives last May, punching the last ticket available for the continent’s national team flagship competition, the AFC Asian Cup 2015 to be held in Australia.
A second half free-kick from tournament leading scorer Ashraf Nu'man proved the difference as Palestine won over the Philippines at the National Stadium.
Nu'man crucially netted his fourth goal of the tournament a minute before the hour mark as Palestine completed an unbeaten campaign without conceding a goal, sealing a place in a tough Group D in the AFC Asian Cup alongside defending champions Japan, Jordan and 2007 winners Iraq.
The Jamal Mahmoud-led (who was also nominated for 2014 AFC Manager of the Year) side’s historic AFC Challenge Cup victory was hailed as the best ever day in Palestine's football history.
"I do believe it is recognition by the AFC family that football in Palestine is developing and that the Palestinian football family is committed to promoting ethics and values in the game," said  President of Palestinian Football Association  Jibril Rajoub.
"I see it as a clear-cut message to the people of Palestine and the Palestinian footballers that promoting such ethics and values is the right way to make business in the Middle East."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

23 Tickets to Australia: Battle for final places begins to heat up

Amour: Back in the mix
Palestine showed enough in two friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Vietnam to calm the fears of many doubters still fretting about Jamal Mahmoud's departure. 

Palestine were clearly second best against Saudi Arabia in the first half but showed some sparks in the second half. They built on that performance three days later against Vietnam; overpowering their opponents in the second half. 

The two friendlies did raise some intriguing questions about roster spots. Mahmoud Eid has come out of nowhere and now seems likely to lead the attack for Al-Fida'i  in their Asian Cup debut against Japan in Newcastle. Hesham Salhe's energetic performance against Vietnam have many clamoring to an end of the Murad Ismail-Khader Yousef partnership in midfield. 

More Analysis After the jump....