Saturday, November 7, 2015

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

Palestine preparation underway in Amman. 
Game Information

What: 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying
When: November 9th, 2015
Where: Amman International Stadium, Amman, Jordan
Kickoff: 1400 GMT
Streams/TV: pal24.net 


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
June 2015 (2018 World Cup Qualifying): Saudi Arabia 3-2 Palestine

Suspensions/Injuries: Palestine will be without Matias Jadue for this game courtesy of his booking against Timor Leste. Fellow forward Mahmoud Eid misses out through injury.




Drama

 The overarching theme this week? Whether or not this game was going to go ahead. This fixture was supposed to take place in June and the PFA will be kicking themselves for agreeing to swap home dates. That decision was made in good faith with the understanding that the Saudi Football Federation would indeed travel to Palestine in October. After failing to get FIFA to move the match, pressure was exerted on the political front which resulted in the Palestinian Authority claiming that security of visiting teams and the match itself could not be guaranteed at this time. The announcement undermined the tireless efforts of the PFA who had done everything in their power to protect Palestine's right to host matches.

A different approach? 

In Abdel Nasser Barakat's first four games in charge there was a concerted effort in cleaning up defensive errors. Rebuilding this team from the back was a wise move after the team was ripped apart for 11 goals in three games at the Asian Cup. Those problems were still evident in the first game against Saudi Arabia but slowly disappeared and by the time of the UAE game Palestine were a solid defensive unit.

The problem? An overcommitment to reactive football. Two dropped points (which could be recouped if Palestine's appeal is successful) against Timor Leste was more the result of Palestine not pressing the issue from the get go. A goal down, with less than 40 minutes to play, Palestine abandoned their counterattacking game but could only muster an equalizer.

Palestine may not go for an expansive approach against Saudi Arabia but confidence must be displayed if they are to avenge their 3-2 loss in Dammam.

The return of the creative duo of Abdelhamid Abuhabib and Ashraf Nu'man should provide a different dimension to a side that has been solid but unspectacular thus far.

How Good are Saudi Arabia? 

After a tumultuous Asian Cup the Green Falcons are sitting pretty on top of Group A with a 100% record having played all opponents once. Only two other teams can lay claim to that feat (Qatar and South Korea) but it has to be said that three of their opponents could have come away with more from their encounters. Palestine had clawed their way back in the first encounter only to commit defensive hari kari on the last kick of the game. Similarly, a rash and unnecessary challenge by Omar Abdelrahman gifted Saudi Arabia the winning penalty kick in the 87th minute. Even Malaysia, recently ripped apart 10-0, had a 1-0 lead against the Saudis with less than 20 minutes to play.

Good teams find ways to win and with more time under Bert van Marwijk perhaps they'll be less dependent on Al-Sahlawi and more adept at breaking teams down.

Stop Al-Sahlawi 

This time last year, Al-Sahlawi was an afterthought in the Saudi national team- having scored four goals since being called up in 2009. In 2015, there hasn't been a prolific striker in international football. The Al-Nasr hitman has 13 goals in 2015 and he's scored in the national team's last seven games. If Palestine want a result in this game they will need to find a way to stop Al-Sahlawi from finding the back of the net.

Preparation 

Less than four days ago, Bert van Marwijk went on the record saying that the Palestine game was not in his plans. Now that the match is on, how ready will Saudi Arabia be to face a Palestine team that is a lot stronger than the one they faced four months ago?

Palestine's psychological state will also provide an interesting paradigm. Will they be disheartened by losing two home matches or will the confrontational nature of the issue give them an added boost?

And what of the pitch itself? Not too long ago the Amman International Stadium was submerged in water. Prince Ali and the Jordanian FA have given assurances that the pitch will hold up but another storm is expected on Monday which could affect how this game is played.

Squads

PALESTINE

Goalkeepers: Toufic Ali (Dora), Rami Hammadi (Thaqafi Tulkarem), Azmi Shweiki (Ahli Al-Khaleel)

Defenders: Abdelatif Bahdari, Haitham Dheeb (both Shabab Al-Khaleel), Mahmoud Dayfallah, Abdallah Jaber, Ahmed Harbi (all Ahli Al-Khaleel), Tamer Salah, Fadi Salbees (both Hilal Al-Quds), Alexis Norambuena (unattached)

Midfielders: Jonathan Cantillana (CD Palestino/CHI), Pablo Tamburrini (San Luis/CHI), Jaka Ihbeisheh (Rudar/SLO), Mohammed Darwish (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh), Hesham Salhe (Al-Am'ary), Khader Yousef (Taraji Wadi Al-Nes), Abdelhamid Abuhabib Mohammed Asfour (both Balata), Sameh Mara'ba (Khader), Mohammed Yameen (Thaqafi Tulkarem), Tamer Seyam (Shabab Al-Khaleel)

Forwards: Ashraf Nu'man (Wehdat/JOR), Ahmed Abu Nahyeh (Shabab Al-Khaleel), Qasim Mahamied (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh)

SAUDI ARABIA 

Goalkeepers: Khalid Sharahili (Al-Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem(Al-Hilal), Mohammed Al Owais (Al-Shabab), Abdullah Al Awashir (Al-Fateh)

Defenders: Motaz Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Walid Bakhashwain  (all Al-Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al-Nassr), Yasin Hamza (Al-Ittihad), Abdullah Al Zori, Yasser Al-Shahrani (both Al-Hilal), Hassan Muath, Abdulmalik Khaybari (both Al-Shabab),

Midfielders: Salman Al Faraj, Nawaf Al Abed (both Al-Hilal), Shaya Sharahili, Yahya Al-Shehri (both Al-Nassr), Abdaarahman Ghamdi (Al-Ittihad)Mustafa Al-Bassas, Tayseer Jassim, Hussein Almgahoa,Salman Al-Moasher (all Al-Ahli) ,

Forwards: Fahd Al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad), Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, Naif Hazazi (both Al-Nassr)