Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Preview: Saudi Arabia vs. Palestine (2018 World Cup Qualifying)

Abdel Nasser Barakat giving instruction to his charges 

Game Information

What: 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying
When: June 11th, 2015
Where: Mohammed Bin Fahad StadiumDammamSaudi Arabia 
Kickoff: 21:00 Local
Streams/TV: pal24.net game  available on Abu Dhabi Sport 2, Saudi Sport, Palestine Sport.

Previous Encounters: 
November 2014: Saudi Arabia 2-0 Palestine
January 2014 (WAFF Championship): Saudi Arabia 0-0 Palestine
June 2012 (Arab Cup): Saudi Arabia 2-2 Palestine

Suspensions: None

More after the jump...



Is this a home or away match? 

The PFA released yet another statement after announcing that this match would be shifted to Saudi Arabia. In that statement,  PFA Jibril Rajoub stated that the two federations simply agreed to switch matchdays and that the PFA was not prepared to play home matches outside of Palestine. For what it's worth, the schedule on FIFA.com now shows the Saudis visiting Palestine on October 13th.

Injuries, Scratches, & Absences: 

Palestine's player list differs somewhat from the one released by Abdel Nasser Barakat earlier this week. Hilal Al-Quds's Khaled Azzam replaces Azmi Shweki and will most likely act as an emergency keeper behind Ghanem Mahajneh.

The squad will be even more inexperienced thanks to the absences of Haitham Dheeb- who could not get a release from his work to join up with the team- and Abdelatif Bahdari who left training on Thursday under mysterious circumstances.

Some say that Bahdari left national team training in protest at the game being moved to Saudi Arabia. While sources within the FA say that he travelled to Gaza and was not allowed to exit upon entering. At the time of writing, Football Palestine is not able to confirm either story.

Holding midfielder Mohammed Yameen was left at home while Mahmoud Dayfallah of Ahli Al-Khaleel comes into the squad to provide extra defensive cover in the absence of Dheeb and Bahdari.

As a result, Palestine will be fielding an extremely young squad with only Khader Yousef (31), Tamer Salah (29), Jaka Ihbeisheh (28) over the age of 25.

Saudi Preparation 

The Saudis lone friendly ahead of facing Palestine came in March when they beat Jordan, 2-1 (all goals came after the 86th minute) on the same ground that is set to host tomorrow's match. The one time big boys of the region are reeling after failing to get out of the group stage at a second successive Asian Cup. To make matters worse, the Saudis did not even come close to qualifying for Brazil 2014.

The Green Falcons will be led by Faisal Al Baden who will be on a short leash and any slip up against Palestine will almost surely result in him getting replaced by a more high profile foreign coach. For their part, Saudi Arabia have made some major changes to the roster. In goal, a new generation of goalkeepers will be tasked with replacing Walid Abdullah (69 caps- starter at Australia 2015). At the other end of the pitch, the always volatile Nasser Al-Shamrani has also been left at home. Former captain Saudi Kariri retired following the 2015 Asian Cup.

That said, the Saudi lineup could feature the same backline that featured vs. Korea DPR at the Asian Cup (Yasser Al-Shahrani, Omar Hawsawi; Osama Hawsawi, & Hassan Fallath).

How will they line up? 

The big question for Palestine is whether or not they will pack the midfield with three defensive players in a 4-3-3 formation or if they'll attempt to replace Abuhabib in the hole with either Ahmed Maher, Sameh Mara'ba or the young Mahmoud 'Moodi' Abu Wardeh. I think the 4-3-3 option is more likely, should Palestine be chasing a goal in the second half- expect to see one of these players (or the versatile Qasim Mahameid) come off the bench


The Saudi Lineup more or less picks itself. It's hard to see any radical changes being made as Al Baden didn't make any radical choices in choosing the 23 players for this squad.


Prediction: Saudi Arabia 1-0 Palestine. Too much inexperience and upheaval for Palestine to overcome in my opinion.