Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who wants an official Palestine NT Jersey?

I bet every single one of our readers would be interested in purchasing one. We get emails, comments, and posts on a weekly basis from people asking where they can buy one. The problem is two-fold:

Firstly, the Palestinian National Team does not have an official sponsor (Diadora provided the kits for the National Team the last time out while Peak outfitted the Olympic Team).

Secondly, even when the team had an official sponsor, the anticipated lack of demand led the company (Diadora in the early years, followed by Le Coq Sportif) not to mass produce and sell it to the public.

Well we've decided to do something about this after seeing US Soccer fans successfully lobby Nike for a red jersey.

So here is our idea: We have another Twitter account requesting an official supplier to kit the team out in a green jersey with black and red trim. In order for this to be successful we need our readers to spread the word. Forward the page to your friends and have them follow it. This is only going to work if we get thousands of people on board. Help us make this happen!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Palestine to face Afghanistan in Round 1, Thailand in Round 2

Seedings, draws, pots.... Ugh! The entire thing is a pretty nervy affair but Palestine managed to come through relatively unscathed. Afghanistan will be our first opposition on June 28th and July 3rd (I believe we are hosting the return leg). We've never played Afghanistan but this matchup provides us with the advantage of playing the away leg at a neutral site.

Afghanistan haven't set the continent alight since their re-entering the footballing world in 2002. That said, they have experienced an uptick in fortune over the past couple of months. Narrowly losing a friendly to Tajikstan 1-0 and sweeping aside Bhutan 5-0 on aggregate in their Preliminary AFC Challenge Cup Qualifier. Their group games against Korea DPR, Sri Lanka, and Nepal should provide us with clues as to how good this team is.

I don't think we should get cocky or overconfident, drawing Malaysia or Vietnam would have been trickier but we have to respect the opponent. I love our team and we're definitely in the ascendency but on paper this team hadn't won in 59 months before last week.

As for Thailand, all I can say for them at this point is that they aren't Iran, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia. That in itself is a relief, but it doesn't mean we should start celebrating. Their recent history doesn't do them justice. This is a team that is better funded than us and has a Premiership legend- Bryan Robson coaching them. Advancing will hinge on getting a result in Bangkok, the Thais will be the first to tell you that their record in the Middle East is woeful.

More on this topic to follow...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Goals vs Myanmar

Murad Alyan - 40' 1-1

Ahmad Harbi - 72' 2-1

Murad Alyan - 90' 3-1

Palestine FA formally submits request to host Challenge Cup Finals

This isn't an early April Fool's day joke. Jibril Rajoub has announced that he will formally submit the request to Mohammed Bin Hammam today in the Vietnamese capitol, Hanoi. The AFC is currently wrapping up an official two-day visit of the country.

While I have no doubt that Palestine, with its mild summer weather, two FIFA sanctioned stadiums (Al-Ram and Jericho), and great hospitality. Of course, I mean this theoretically.

It seems to me that Rajoub resides on another planet completely unaware of the occupation happening outside his front door. In order for this to happen Israel's occupying authority would have to guarantee the safe passage of seven other national teams, guarantee them freedom of movement, agree not conduct any arbitrary military activity, and keep their uncontrollable settler vigilantes at bay.

If North Korea and Afghanistan qualify there will be the added headache of hosting two teams that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The border crossing from Jordan (or alternatively, landing at Ben Gurion) could result in some serious diplomatic hijinks.

I would be shocked if this happens.

Omar Jarun joins FC Tampa Bay

After going on trial with FC Dallas of the MLS earlier in the week. Omar Jarun has landed himself a new club in the division below- the NASL. Despite impressing in his sole game with the FC Dallas reserves this move represents a positive one for Jarun. In my discussions with supporters of FC Dallas, Jarun would have been buried on the depth chart and wouldn't have seen much significant playing time.

By signing with FC Tampa Bay, Jarun puts himself in a situation were he is nearly guaranteed to start week in, week out. The concept of promotion and relegation doesn't exist in the United States (and Canada) but Jarun could still put himself in the shop window for next season. Major League Soccer is due to expand in 2012- with Montreal getting a franchise. Further expansion to 20 or more teams is heavily rumored.

I'm fairly confident that Omar is going to turn some heads in the NASL this season and I throughly believe that he has grown as a player thanks to his experience in the Polish Liga I.

Monday, March 28, 2011

World Cup 2014 qualifying format gets tweaked

As we reported via Twitter- Mohammed Bin Hammam and Co. have settled on a couple of minor changes to the qualifying format for the 2014 World Cup. Mark your calendars as the preliminary draw is set for Wednesday, March 30th!

The most significant change is the introduction of a preliminary round of qualifying and the removal of the horrendous second "round" that was in place for the 2010 tournament. Palestine will be taking place in the preliminary round of qualifying after being ranked 37th out of 43 nations (They were ranked 18th for the 2010 edition).

Also taking part in the first round are 15 other nations ranked 28th and below. Palestine will play one of these nations home and away on June 28th and July 3rd, respectively:

28. Malaysia, 29. Afghanitsan, Cambodia, 31. Nepal, 32. Bangladesh, 33. Sri Lanka, Vietnam, 35. Mongolia, 36. Pakistan, 37. Palestine, 38. Timor Leste, 39. Macau, 40. Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, 42. Laos, Philippines.

If you're wondering how we have fared against the opposition listed above, the answer is quite well.

Palestine faced Malaysia in 2002 World Cup qualifying and beat them 1-0 but lost their final game to them 3-4 after Qatar had clinched qualification from the group. The games were played in Hong Kong and Doha, respectively.

Palestine faced Cambodia at the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup group stage and thrashed them 4-0 with a brace from Ibrahim Al-Sweikeri and goals from Keshkesh and Attal.

Palestine has faced Nepal only once at senior level. Their sole match was the 2008 Challenge Cup qualifier during the Izzat Hamzeh (shudder) era. The match ended 0-0 and was played in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

Palestine holds an undefeated record against Bangladesh, having drawn against them (1-1) in the 2006 Challenge Cup in a dead rubber group match. The other match, played last week, ended in 2-0 win.

Palestine has never beaten Pakistan at every time of calling with wins over them in 2000 Asian Cup Qualifying (2-0) and a 2006 friendly (3-0) to their name.

Palestine has a 100% against Chinese Taipei. Including an historic 8-0 thrashing in 2006 World Cup Qualifying. Palestine also won in Taiwan with a shorthanded squad, 1-0.

Palestine faced off against Myanmar and the Philippines last week beating Myanmar 3-1 and being forced to settle for a 0-0 draw by Neil Etheridge and the Azkals.

Overall record vs. teams 28-43: 8 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws (+23 GD)

If Palestine take care of business in the first round they will play another home and away qualification playoff against teams ranked 6th and below. Their record against this group of teams is less convincing but with the ability to play the home leg in Palestine, fortune might swing in Al-Fursan's favor. These matches will take place July 23rd and 28th:

6. Saudi Arabia, 7. Iran, 8. Qatar, 9. Uzbekistan, 10. UAE, 11. Syria, 12. Oman, 13. Jordan, 14. Iraq, 15. Singapore, 16. China, 17. Kuwait, 18. Thailand, 19. Turkmenistan, 20. Lebanon, 21. Yemen, 22. Tajikistan, 23. Hong Kong, 24. Indonesia, 25. Kyrgyzstan, 26. Maldives, 27. India

The teams no one wants to face in this round are Saudi Arabia and Iran. Palestine would also want to avoid Uzbekistan (0-0-2, -6 GD), Iraq (0-2-10 -22 GD), and possibly China (0-0-3, -6 GD). I think most fans will be itching to get Singapore and set the record straight after Palestine's calamitous exit from 2010 World Cup Qualifying.

If Palestine gets past this stage they will progress to the third and penultimate round of qualifying. They would be placed in a group with one of the preordained Top 5 teams (Australia, Japan, Korea Republic, Korea DPR & Bahrain) along with two other teams. Each team would play each other twice over six matchdays stretching from September 2nd, 2011 - February 29th, 2012. The winner and runner up advances to the final round where the 10 teams are split into two groups. The top two teams in each group qualify directly to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The third place team in each group plays a home-and-away playoff to determine who gets to play the winner of Oceania qualifying for the right to punch the final ticket to Brazil 2014.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

10 Reasons behind Palestine's Challenge Cup Qualification

  1. The West Bank Premier League- Twenty out of the 21 players called up ply their trade in Palestine. Over the past 3 years they have been able to compete without unplanned stoppages or arbitrary cancellations. The league has helped foster competitiveness and talent.
  2. Training Camp & Friendlies- Mousa Bezaz was afforded the opportunity to work with his players for nearly a month before the start of the tournament. This time period also saw three unofficial friendlies played against Pakistan (twice) and Kuwait which allowed the team to gel. Instead of trying to correct mistakes mid-tournament, mistakes were identified and eliminated weeks before the first match against Bangladesh.
  3. Tactics- In all three games Palestine played they never chased the game. They were the team dictating the play. The result was 7 points, the only instance where victory wasn't achieved was against the Philippines thanks to Neil Etheridge's heroics in goal.
  4. Second Half Adjustments- Four out five of Palestine's goals came in the second half of games which resulted in six of Palesetine's seven points. Bezaz did a good job of reading how the game was unfolding and reacted to it. In the game against the Philippines, the Azkals showed signs of life in the final five minutes of the first half after Palestine had dominated the first 40 minutes of the match. Instead of giving into a sense of pride, Bezaz had the team slow the pace of the game down eliminating any threat Philippines posed on the counter.
  5. Murad Alyan- He wasn't even initially included in the list of players for this tournament. Needless to say an out of form Jamal Allan wasn't going to provide these crucial goals. Bezaz had once claimed that he was too old and that the Wehdat duo of Ahmed Keshkesh and Fahed Attal rendered him a surplus to requirements.
  6. Abdelatif Bahdari's late inclusion- The entire back line played well but Bahdari was key in organizing his teammates and breaking up attacks. Palestine is a different side without Bahdari in the line-up. Just look at Palestine record without him over the past two years ( 0 W 0 D 4 L 13 goals allowed) as opposed to with him (2 W 6 D 2L 8 goals allowed). Those numbers include the two goals in the WAFF match against Yemen after he was unjustly sent off. Get this man an agent and a big money contract NOW.
  7. Levelheaded Play- Thrust into pressure situations players often breakdown mentally and either forget how to play or commit silly fouls. Palestine collected only two yellow cards in the first two games and never had to play with a weakened squad or numerical disadvantage at any time during the tournament. Unfortunately, the AFC's guidelines mean that the bookings received by Amour and Bahdari will carry over to the first game of the final tournament.
  8. Mental Toughness- Palestine could have folded after giving up a penalty to Myanmar in the 25th minute. Good teams not only overcome setbacks, they relegate them to the status of a minor nuisance. Palestine stuck to the game plan and they swept aside the back-to-back 4th place finishers and hosts with ease.
  9. Five Man Midfield- Bezaz finally realized that his teams needed balance. On more than one occasion he has tried to shoehorn a forward into midfield or trying to transform a playmakers into holding midfielders. Houssam Wadi in front of the defence straightened things out and Khader Yousef took care of distribution to the fleet-footed trio of Amour, Obeid, and Nu'man. Hopefully, the balance will be retained when the entire squad meets up again. No one wants to see Attal, Keshkesh and Alyan on the pitch at the same time.
  10. Team Spirit- Some very deserving players didn't get a chance to play at this tournament. But you wouldn't be able to tell by the joyous reactions of the players following each result. When a reporter asked Eyad Abugharqud, the WBPL's leading scorer about not playing he responded by saying that "the thrill of being on the bench when the national team scores is like being on the pitch and scoring the goal myself. It is the best feeling I have ever experienced."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 3 : 1 Myanmar

Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Shbair; Hijazi, Bahdari, Mahdi, Harbi (Abu Saleh 75'); Wadi, Youssef; Amour (Jebreen 85'), Obeid, Nu'man (Abu Belal 75'); Alyan

Goals: Alyan 40', 90' Harbi 72'

Recap: Palestine achieve first ever come from behind victory to win Group A on 7 points. Murad Alyan scored the equalizer and the clincher and Ahmed Harbi got the second. Philippines thrashed Bangladesh 3-0 to advance in second place on 5 points.

The game started off with Palestine nearly opening the scoring in the first five minutes through midfielder Houssam Wadi. In the sixth minute, Ahmed Harbi was fouled in the box but his cries for a penalty were ignored by the Bahraini referee. Ashraf Nu'man then saw his powerful shot sail a few inches wide of the goal.

Despite the early dominance, Palestine found themselves a goal down in the 25th minute after a defensive breakdown forced Abdelatif Bahdari into a risky challenge inside the area. The referee whistled for a penalty and carded the Wehdat defender. Aung made no mistake, sending Mohammed Shbair the wrong way as he slotted in the right corner. Palestine approached the game with added intensity with Ismail Amour picking up a yellow for dissent after Harbi had fallen victim to a particularly nasty challenge. Five minutes before the end of the half, Murad Alyan's headed goal put Palestine level. It was Dado's third goal in as many games and he nearly struck againg the dying minutes of the first half only to see his header flash wide of the post.

The second half saw a more cautious approach from Al-Fursan. With the halftime score in the other game 1-0 to the Philippines, Palestine were still poised to finish first in Group A. With Myanmar desperate for goals and Palestine desperate to hold on the opening 25 minutes of the second half saw three yellow cards doled out to Htwe and Ashraf Nu'man.

Palestine would break the deadlock on 72 minutes when Al-Am'ary left back Ahmed Harbi's mazy run past several defenders was cooly finished off. The goal assured Palestine would win Group A after Ángel Guirado's had put Philippines temporarily top of the group with his 55th minute goal against Bangladesh.

Bezaz went to his bench after the second goal, electing to put in the more defensive Hussam Abu Saleh in place of Ahmed Harbi and also pulling Nu'man and Amour, who had already been cautioned, for Abu Belal and Jebreen. Palestine were looking very comfortable and despite sitting back were still creating chances. Sulieman Obeid went close in the 84th minute before Murad "Dado" Alyan capped off a fantastic night in injury time with his second goal and his fourth in only three games with the national team.

What it Means: Palestine win Group A with 7 points to their name. Philippines finish as runner-up on 5 points after destroying Bangladesh 3-0. Palestine will be joined next year in a yet to be confirmed location by 7 other teams- the aforementioned Azkals, India, Maldives, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, and two Group D (Korea DPR, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan) teams.

Positives: There are many to chose from. Ahmed Harbi made a statement and played a fantastic game. Despite his defensive frailties he looks to be good option at left back when playing against teams of equal or lesser caliber. His performance against Iraq, where he was complicit in two of the three goals allowed was rock bottom for him, for him to rebound is such a great achievement. There's also the fact that this is Palestine's first ever come from behind win since joining FIFA in 1998. It shows the maturation of the team and give the players much needed confidence heading into 2014 World Cup Qualifying.

Negatives: I'm not going to criticize anyone. I've had my problems with Bezaz's squad selection and I don't think this qualification campaign was flawless by any means. But, it should be put into perspective: We went winless for 59 months and we now have two wins in the space of five days. This was accomplished without the presence of Ramzi Saleh, Omar Jarun, Majed Abusidu, Shareef Adnan, Roberto Bishara, Fahed Attal, Ahmed Keshkesh, Imad Zatara, and essentially every other professional player based abroad you can think of. It's not that I think that all the players plying their trade in Palestine are inferior, it's just that they lack proper training methods at their clubs. Without a proper training camp and friendlies these players will struggle at the international level. The month long training camp organized by Bezaz helped to address these issues. So well done to Bezaz and all the players.

Player of the Tournament: It has to go to Murad Alyan. The man Bezaz said there was no point in calling up because we had Keshkesh and Attal and because he thought he wasa 35 (he was only 32 at the time) years old. Four goals in three games makes Alyan the 6th highest scorer in Palestine's history behind Al-Kord (15), Attal (12), Al-Jeish (5), Keshkesh (5), and Lafi (5). To think what we could have done with him if we had him during his prime. He went for years banging in goals left and right in the Israel's lower leagues but he never really got his chance. I'm very happy for his success... and I think we need to start actively scouting talent in the Israeli league to bolster our squad.

What's Next: The friendly against Kuwait has been cancelled by the Kuwaitis. Our next friendly matches are rumored to be in May against Pakistan in Palestine. Keep an eye out for the 2014 World Cup draw on March 30th.

Qualification Scenarios

I wasn't completely clear in an earlier post and may have presented some misinformation. Here are the qualification rules as outline by Article 19 of the Regulations handbook.

Ranking criteria is as follows:
1. Number of Points
2. Head-to-Head
3. Goal Differential between the teams concerned
4. Goals Scored between the teams concerned
5. Total Goal Differential
6. Total Goals Scored
7. Penalty Kicks (if the two teams are on the field of play)
8. Fair Play (-1 for each Yellow Card, -3 for Red Card, -3 for two Yellow Cards followed by an ejection, -4 for a Yellow Card followed by a direct Red Card)
9. Drawing of Lots

Here are all Group A Qualification Scenarios (Palestine can qualify in 7 of the 9 scenarios):

Palestine Win, Bangladesh Win.

1. Palestine (7 pts)
2. Bangladesh (6 pts)

Palestine Win, Philippines Win

1. Palestine (7 pts)
2. Philippines (5 pts)

Palestine Win, PHI-BAN Draw

1. Palestine (7 pts)
2. Bangladesh (4 pts)


1. Palestine (5 pts)
2. Bangladesh (4 pts)

PLE-MYA Draw, Philippines 1 Goal Win

1. Palestine (5 pts +2 GD)
2. Philippines (5pts +1 GD)

PLE-MYA Draw, Philippines 2 Goal Win

1. Palestine (5 pts +2 GD) =Tiebreaker would be Goals scored
2. Philippines (5pts +2 GD)

PLE-MYA Draw, Philippines 3 Goal Win

1. Philippines (5pts +3 GD)
2. Palestine (5 pts +2 GD)

PLE-MYA Draw, Bangladesh Win

1. Bangladesh (6pts)
2. Palestine (5 pts)

Myanmar Win, Bangladesh Win

1. Bangladesh (6pts)
2. Myanmar (4pts) = Tiebreaker H2H vs. Palestine

Myanmar Win, PHI-BAN Draw

1. Bangladesh (4 pts)
1. Palestine (4 pts)
1. Myanmar (4 pts

=Tiebreaker: 1st Tiebreaker: Head-to-Head (3 pts for each team) 2nd Tiebreaker: Goals Scored between the three (Currently: PLE +2, BAN +2, MYA -2). 3rd Tiebreaker: Total Group Goal Differential. 4th Tiebreaker: Total Goals Scored. 5th Tiebreaker: Penalty kicks between MYA and PLE.

Myanmar Win, Philippines Win
1. Philippines (5 pts)
2. Myanmar (4pts) =Tiebreaker H2H vs. Palestine

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Scouting the Opponent: Myanmar

Game Information:
When: Friday, March 23rd, 2011 0900 GMT
Where: Thuwunna Stadium, Yangoon, Myanmar
Follow the result live on or here

FIFA Rank:
161 (30th in AFC)
Previous Encounters: None

Recent Results:
23/03/2011 v. Bangladesh L 0-2
21/03/2011 v. Philippines D 1-1
08/12/2010 v. Philippines D 0-0
05/12/2010 v. Singapore L 1-2
02/12/2010 v. Vietnam L 1-7

Background: It's hard to put your finger on this Myanmar team. For one thing, they almost always play the same opponents (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines , & Vietnam) but over the past three years results against those sides have run the gamut. The White Angels rarely play teams from Western Asia. The last time they did was during the 2004 Asian Cup qualifiers they were shellacked by Bahrain (1-3, 0-4) and Iraq (1-3, 0-3).

Their record in the AFC Challenge Cup has been quite good. Finishing fourth in the last two editions of the tournament. They qualified for the 2010 tournament with a 100% record in their qualification group (4-0 vs. Macau, 2-1 vs. Bangladesh, 1-0 vs. Cambodia). The AFC gave them a direct berth for the 2008 tournament.

Both the 2008 and 2010 tournament were nearly identical for Myanmar. Big losses against a contender in the group stage (3-0 vs. Korea DPR in 2008, 3-0 vs. Tajikstan in 2010) followed up with wins against South Asian sides (2008: 3-0 vs. 3-0 vs. Nepal, 3-1 vs. Sri Lanka 2010: 4-0 vs Sri Lanka, 2-1 vs. Bangladesh). They then were promptly dispatched in the next round by the eventual winners (2008: 1-0 vs. India 2010: 5-0 vs. Korea DPR) only to end up in the 3rd/4th place playoff against former opponents at the group stage where they could do little to improve on initial performances (2008: 4-0 vs. Korea DPR 2010: 1-0 vs. Tajikstan). It's hard not to be cynical with these results, Myanmar may boast back-t0-back semifinal appearances but they haven't exactly beat any team of note.

Even Myanmar's recent footballing achievements are puzzling, they dominated Philippines in the first half of their 1-1 draw only to be completely dominated in the second half by the Azkals. The 2-0 loss to Bangladesh does very little to shed light on what sort of team we will be facing. Myanmar has their back up against the wall but it remains to be seen if Milan Zivadinovic can motivate his team to claw back and qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup Finals.

Challenge Cup Squad: Zivadinovic has called up a young squad with half the players under the age of 23. All the players ply their trade in the Burmese league, so for Jabal Al-Mokaber trio (Amour, Wadi, and Hijazi) this match could serve as a useful preview of their upcoming AFC President's Cup tie against Myanmar champions Yadanarbon.

Key Players: If Myanmar are going to pull an upset they are going to need goals. The burden will fall on Yadanarbon striker Yan Piang who was voted as the best player in the Myanmar league after finishing as its top scorer. Despite playing 135 minutes of miserable football the hosts find themselves with an outside chance at qualifying. It remains to be seen whether or not this team will seize the opportunity or simply capitulate.

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0 : 0 Philippines

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Saidawi (C); Hijazi, Mahdi, Bahdari, Harbi; Wadi, Yousef (Salhe 87'); Amour (Jebreen 78'), Obeid, Nu'man(Abu Belal 68'); Alyan.

Pictures of the match available here thanks to our friends at

Let me start off by saying that the outpouring of support on Twitter from followers of Pinoy Football has been immense. In the past 24 hours our following has increased by nearly 40% thanks to passionate Azkal fans. A couple of years ago, the Philippines were regarded as a footballing non-factor. I can say that they are now very much a side (and a fan base) that should be taken seriously. They remind me of ourselves when we made our re-appearance on FIFA's stage. Everyone thought we would be whipping boys but we played with passion. Ramzi Saleh (much like Neil Etheridge) in goal kept us in games and we bloodied a couple of noses on the way. I wish the Azkals the best of luck and although we are almost assured of qualification (see below) I hope the Fursan lend the Azkals a helping hand. We also don't want to sneak into the Challenge Cup Finals we want to enter through the big gate (as the Spanish would say: A pasar por la puerta grande).

Recap: With Palestine already top the group, it was evident that Mousa Bezaz was not quite ready to throw down the gauntlet. His formation remained the same with the only change being the inclusion of Suleiman Obeid over Atef Abu Bilal to pull the strings in the attack. The first stanza was characterized by a very cautious approach from both sides but eventually gave way to a period of dominance for Al-Fursan. Ismail Amour, the most capped player in the side, gave the Azkal defence fits and he tested Fulham reserve goalkeeper Neil Etheridge on multiple occasions. Halfway into the first half the Jabal Al-Mokaber star hit the post as Etheridge saw his goal being laid siege to. Despite a peppering of shots, Etheridge was flawless on the day save for one mistake. Ashraf Nu'man caught Etheridge off his line an audaciously launched a 50 meter shot that went off the crossbar. The Azkals took that scare as a wake up call and started to come into the game in the final minutes of the first half.

The Azkals had surprised Myanmar two days ago with a furious start to the second half. But there was to be no repeat performance today. Palestine established a pattern in the opening period, allowing the Philippines to come forward, waiting for their attack to breakdown and exploiting the space behind them. Azkal manager Michael Weiß was aware of this and his team slowed down the pace of the game in the second half. Needing the three points more than their opponents, Weiß sent on Barsales with half an hour left. Philippines switched to a 4-4-2 formation and started to press, with the substitute, Barsales, failing to challenge Saidawi with a shot that came as result of a goalmouth scramble. As the match wore on neither team was carving out more than a series of half chances. Etheridge excelled in positioning himself to deal with the barrage of dangerous passes being played into and around his area. For their part, Palestine continued to play with one striker with Bezaz electing to keep Mohammed Shatrit on the bench.

What it Means: Palestine still control their own destiny heading into their final group game against Myanmar on Friday. Here are ALL possible qualification scenarios:

  1. Palestine Win. Simple, they win Group A on 7 points, no matter what happens with Bangladesh & Philippines.
  2. Palestine Draw + Bangladesh/Philippines Draw. Palestine win Group A on 5 points, Bangladesh clinches runner-up spot.
  3. Palestine Draw + Philippines 1 goal Win. Palestine Win Group A on 5 points thanks to a superior goal difference (+2). Philippines clinches second place also on 5 points and a goal differential of (+1). A 2 goal win for the Azkals could result in Palestine winning the group if they have scored more goals.
  4. Palestine Draw + Philippines 3 goal Win. Palestine qualifies as runner-up to Philippines.
  5. Palestine Draw + Bangladesh Win. Palestine qualifies as runner up.
  6. Palestine 1 goal Loss + Bangladesh/Philippines Draw. Palestine win Group A (4 points, +1 GD) by virtue of better goal differential. Bangladesh qualifies as runner up (4 points, 0 GD).

Negatives: Not being able to score an early goal. The chances were there and credit to Etheridge, he played fantastically well today. If Mark Schwarzer leaves in the summer, I could see Etheridge pushing current #2 David Stockdale for the starting job at Fulham.

Positives: Defensively, Palestine are very sound and its down to the late inclusion of Abdelatif Bahdari. The Philippines could not get past us and when they did Saidawi has proven himself a more than capable deputy for Ramzi Saleh (3 clean sheets in 5 caps). Bahdari provides Palestine with the sort of presence Ryan Nelsen provides New Zealand (They were whipping boys at the Confederations Cup without him, an undefeated team at the World Cup with him).

What's Next: Myanmar on Friday! (25/03/2011) 0900 GMT.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Scouting the Opponent: Philippines

Game Information:
When: 23/03/2011 0900 GMT
Where: Thuwunna Stadium, Yangoon, Myanmar

FIFA Rank: 151 (27th in Asia)
Previous Encounters: None.

Recent Results:
12/02/2010 v. Singapore D 1-1
12/05/2010 v. Vietnam W 2-0
12/08/2010 v. Myanmar D 0-0
12/16/2010 v. Indonesia L 0-1
12/19/2010 v. Indonesia L 0-1
09/02/2011 v. Mongolia W 2-0
15/03/2011 @ Mongolia L 1-2
21/03/2011 v. Myanmar D 1-1

Background: The past five years have marked a rebirth of sorts for Filipino football. Coincidentally, the Philippines hit their lowest FIFA ranking (195, September 2006) at around the same time Palestine achieved their highest ever ranking (115, May 2006). Since declining to participate in 2006 World Cup qualifying the Philippines has made a commitment to developing the game at the grassroots by fostering a domestic league. The Azkals have never participated in the finals of the AFC Challenge Cup. Their best performance was during the 2008 qualifying tournament where they narrowly missed out on qualification to Tajikstan by virtue of goal difference. The Azkals, however, have recently put together a string of impressive results against stronger sides and have experienced an infusion of talent from players plying their trade in Europe.

Challenge Cup Squad: The Philippines caught an unlucky break when their star striker, Chelsea youth product Phil Younghusband was forced to pull out of the tournament with a pulled hamstring. His older brother (also a former Chelsea product) James is included in the squad and converted a penalty against Myanmar along with the vital away goal in Ulan Bator that clinched the Azkals' place in Group A. Despite some notable absences this is a formidable side that will be boosted by the arrival of AGF Aarhus's Jerry Lucena who represented Denmark at U21 level. There are issues with the chemistry and fluidity of the team and its new additions who have not had time to blend in with the squad.

Key Player: Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, a reserve player for Fulham, will be key if the Azkals are to get something from this game. The Philippines looked lethargic in the first half against Myanmar but Etheridge put in save after save. His teammates have leaned on him heavily and nearly every result the team pulls off can be attribute to Etheridge turning several key saves. As for outfield players, a lot will rest on the shoulders of the winger James Younghusband. The Azkals have some interesting pieces in ex-Atletico Madrid B forward Ángel Guirado and AGF Aarhus midfielder Jerry Lucena but it remains to be seen if these players are able to make an instant impact.

Rapid Reacton: Palestine 2 : 0 Bangladesh

Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Saidawi; Harbi, Bahdari, Mahdi, Hijazi; Hisham Salhe (Abu Saleh 88'), Wadi (Obeid 16'); Amour, Khader Yousef, Nu'man (A. Abu Bilal 66'); Alyan

Goals: Murad Alyan 46', 65'

Recap: Palestine started the match the brighter side, dictating play and dominating possession. A rash tackle on Houssam Wadi in the 16th minute forced Bezaz to go to his bench, bringing on the more offensively minded Suleiman Obeid. Ismail Amour, celebrating a quarter century of caps, did what he does best. A menace on the right side of the pitch a slew of crosses went begging. Ashraf Nu'man had the best chance of the half in the 24th minute with the Bangladesh stopper deflecting his powerful shot centimeters wide. There were chances galore in the first half for Nu'man, Amour, Obeid, and even defenders Abdelatif Bahdari and Samer Hijazi. Despite the barrage, Bangladesh and Palestine headed to the locker room goalless.

The second half saw Palestine grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Just seconds after the whistle, Amour raced into the area and passed to debutant (and senior citizen) Murad Alyan who buried his shot in the lower corner for his first national team goal. Both halves of this match were characterized by a complete defensive dominance by the back line who expertly handled everything Bangladesh had to throw at them. The only real chance for the Bangla Boys came in the 63rd minute which Abdullah Saidawi expertly saved. Two minutes later, Amour and Alyan combined again with Amour's umpteenth cross finding Alyan for his brace. ِAl-Fursan were unlucky not to be awarded a third goal minutes later, Suleiman Obeid's shot had clearly crossed the line before it could be cleared. The refereeing committee failed to see it, thankfully however, Palestine wouldn't need it as they cruised to victory.

What it Means: With the Philippines letting up a late goal to 10-man Myanmar in the Group A opener all Palestine needs to guarantee qualification is 1 win in their next two games. Also of some significance is the fact that this is Palestine's first victory in an international (friendly or otherwise) in 59 months and over a stretch of 24 games (9 draws, 15 losses).

Negatives: The injury to Houssam Wadi leaves Palestine without a real enforcer in midfield.

Positives: The defence was impenetrable. The team also showed a lot of verve to overcome a frustrating first half and put Bangladesh to the sword in the second half.

Star Player: Murad Alyan. A couple of months ago Moussa Bezaz categorically refused to call Alyan up due to his age. All Murad did was keep on scoring with Hilal Al-Quds and looks set to capture his second straight scoring title. Despite, averaging a goal a game he wasn't even initially included in the squad, with Bezaz selecting out of form Jamal Allan instead. What this team needed was a guy who could finish his chances... and Alyan is just that.

What's Next: Palestine will face off against the Philippines in their second group game on March 23rd at 0900 GMT.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Its been a long wait

Our first competitive win in five years, it feels good!
And Im liking the jersey...but(as we said here a thousand times), with red you could be forgiven for mistaking us for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the UAE or Oman. Its too cliche!

A note on streams/TV for Challenge Cup Qualifiers

I read the following on the Bigsoccer message board, if true we might experience some delays in finding out the result of the matches this week:

Join Date: Mar 1999
Default Re: AFC Challenge Cup 2012

No live telecast on the games so far. Paranoid Myanmar has refused the Philppine request to send a camera television crew and has yet to give permission for a live feed on the first game bet. the 2 countries or even for a delayed telecast. Apparently they are now saying they might not be airing games where Myanmar is not included so possibly no telecast whatsoever. I think they are spooked by what is going on in the arab world. It sounds like the dark ages.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scouting the Opponent: Bangladesh

Game Information:
When: 21/03/2011 11.30 GMT
Where: Thuwunna Stadium, Yangoon, Myanmar
TV/Stream: ?

FIFA Rank: 174 (38th in Asia)
Previous Encounters: (0-1-0)
2006 AFC Challenge Cup: 1-1 (F. Attal)

Recent Results:
16/02/2010 v. Tajikstan W (1-2)
18/02/2010 v. Myanmar L (1-2)
20/02/2010 v. Sri Lanka L (0-3)

Challenge Cup Squad: Bangladesh's senior side hasn't played an official match under newly appointed Croatian manager Robert Rubcic. Their last games were the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup finals where they shocked 2006 winner Tajikstan in the opening game only to lose their next two games. The Olympic side recently lost to Kuwait over two legs (0-2, 0-3) and that is where the majority of the players will be drawn from. Rubcic has had some sharp criticism for the older players omitted from the squad.

Key Player: It would seem that Bangladesh are in the midst of a rebuilding phase. Many of the experienced players included in the squad haven't been at their best with their clubs. The inclusion of many U23 players by Rubcic is an attempt to retain some chemistry in the side. Rubcic has admitted that the other sides in the group are much stronger than his and is expected to set his team up to play on the counter. If the team is to stand any chance of qualifying it will need its 23 year-old star and captain Mohammed Ameli to rediscover his form.

All set for Bangladesh...

The national team arrived in Yangoon this past Thursday ahead of their AFC Challenge Cup qualification campaign. The final squad sees only two changes from the one that took part in the friendly series against Pakistan. Jamal Allan and Murad Said have withdrawn and have been replaced by WBPL joint top-scorer Murad Alyan (Hilal Al-Quds) and Jabal Al-Mokaber defender Rafit Eyad. A surprise inclusion in the traveling contingent is Captain Ramzi Saleh who will be providing his support from the sidelines.

First up for Al-Fursan is Bangladesh, a squad they faced in the 2006 edition of the tournament. The result then was a 1-1 draw which saw the team clinch the group on 7 points and a whopping +15 GD (11-0 vs. Guam and 4-0 vs. Cambodia). The only foreign based players in that squad were the ageless Pablo Abdala, Roberto Bishara, and Francisco Alam (Abusidu arrived late and only participated in the quarterfinal). The team now isn't dissimilar despite the absence of established professionals. Before that tournament, Fahed Attal was just a promise (much like Eyad Abugharqud), Keshkesh was just a squad player, as was Ismail Al-Amour. Sure, there were the established steady heads of Jendeya and Al-Kord but let's face it the team started like a house on fire because the supporting cast came of age.

The onus is on the players now. They have had a month to train together, to test their skills against a strong Kuwaiti Olympic Team, and to gain experience playing away from home in Pakistan. For all the talent of the 2006 team their physical fitness was lacking, they ran out of steam against Bangladesh and let up an injury time winner against Kyrgyzstan in the quarterfinals (in a game they dominated statistically). That shouldn't be an issue for the squad now. Moreover, Palestine head into this competition as the most stable team in the group. Bangladesh's manager, Robert Rubicic was appointed in September, Philippines and Myanmar appointed new bosses at the start of the calendar year.

Bezaz has had ample time and is coaching for his job, failure to qualify against unimpressive (with all due respect to the opponents) opposition would surely seal his fate. But there is no reason to expect the worst here and the team seems to be in a very confident mood ahead of their first game.


Mohammed Shbair, Shabab Al-Khaleel
Abdullah Saidawi, Hilal Al-Quds
Saed Abu Sleem, Balata


Ahmed Harbi, Al-Am'ary
Mohammed Al-Masri, Dhahrieh
Khaled Mahdi, Al-Am'ary
Samer Hijazi, Jabal Al-Mokaber
Husam Abu Saleh, Hilal Al-Quds
Rafit Eyad, Jabal Al-Mokaber


Ayman Alhendi, Shabab Al-Khaleel
Houssam Wadi, Jabal Al-Mokaber
Suleiman Obeid, Al-Am'ary
Hesham Salhe, Hilal Al-Quds
Khader Yousef, Wadi Al-Nes
Ashraf Nu'man, Wadi Al-Nes
Atef Abu Bilal, Dhahrieh
Ismail Amour, Jabal Al-Mokaber


Mohammed Jebreen, Al-Bireh
Mohammed Shatrit, Shabab Al-Khaleel
Eyad Abugharqud, Al-Am'ary
Murad Alyan, Hilal Al-Quds

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Palestine falls to Kuwait in scrimmage

I hesitate to call this a friendly because from what I've heard it was more of a closed door practice match. Palestine lost 2-0 to Kuwait's Olympic side (presumably the same side that won the WAFF Championship). Not a great result but I cannot say I'm surprised. If Palestine does end up qualifying for next year's AFC Challenge Cup I have a feeling they will do it by the skin of their teeth.

In other news Philippines fell 2-1 to Mongolia in the second leg of their play-in qualifier. Having won at home 2-0 they will progress on aggregate (3-2) and join ourselves, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An update from the Kuwait Training Camp

[UPDATE]: Palestine will face Kuwait Olympic Team tomorrow (15.03.2011) at 1830 local time. Match might be broadcast on one of the Kuwaiti channels.

For whatever reason news about the National Team has decreased since the Olympic Team's win and near shock progression against Thailand. Here is what we can update you on:

  1. The squad will be bolstered with the addition of striker Murad Alyan (Hilal Al-Quds) and defender Ra'fit Eyad (Jabal Al-Mokaber).
  2. Midfielder Murad Said (Hilal Al-Quds) has picked up an injury and will be unavailable for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers. He joins Jamal Allan in the infirmary.
  3. Al-Fursan are slated to play an unofficial friendly against Kuwait today.
  4. The "official" friendly slated for March 30th is no longer listed on the FIFA website. Kuwait will (reportedly) instead participate in a four team tourney in Sharjah, UAE against Jordan, Iraq, and El Salvador. No news on whether there will be an unofficial tie in its place.
  5. There is no evidence to show that Mousa Bezaz will further supplement his squad with players based abroad. Currently, Omar Jarun and Mohammed Samara are available with the former having agreed a contract termination from Pogon Szczecin and the latter on a forced hiatus due to turmoil in Egypt.
  6. Mokhtar the Dinosaur will discuss a potential contract extension as manager of the Olympic side with Jibril Rajoub.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 1 : 0 Thailand (1-1 agg, 5-6 pen)

Starting XI (4-4-2-):
Toufic Ali (GK); Ahmad Salameh, Nadim Barghouthi, Mustafa Abu Kweik (c), Fayez Aslieh; Ali El-Khatib (Amjad Zidan), Ahmed Mearry, Thaer Qaraeen (Muath Mustafa), Hicham Ali; Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, Khaled Jamal.

Recap: Palestine started brightly and came close in the opening quarter of the game through Khaled Jamal and Ali El-Khatib. The latter had a point blank header heroically saved by the Thai goal keeper after Abu Habeeb had set him up brilliantly. Thailand offered very little in the first half as their quality on the ball could not be translated into any sort of advantage. Just when it seemed that Palestine would be heading to the dressing room at 0-0, Khaled Jamal settled a long ball, dribbled straight at the Thai defence, and unleashed a shot. The deflection fell for Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, who struck it on the volley and smashed it in the top corner.

Palestine came out in the second half buoyed by their goal and were soon playing with a numerical advantage when Theerathon was shown his second yellow by the Qatari ref. Despite repeated attacks in the second half and extra-time the team could not find a way past the Thai keeper. Khaled Jamal had two free headers and Ali El-Khatib's decision making in the final third showed a greediness on his part.

In the penalty shootout, Al-Fursan showed no evidence of nerves with Nadim Barghouthi, Ahmed Mearry, Hicham Ali, Khaled Jamal, and Muath Mustafa. With the scores even at five a piece, Palestine sent Fayez Aslieh to the spot who saw his effort saved. The Thais could not capitalize and Palestine were handed a lifeline. Amjad Zidan's miss on the 7th spot kick condemned Palestine to elimination with the last Thai player sneaking an effort past Toufic Ali.

What it Means: Palestine are eliminated from Olympic Qualifying. Their heroic performance on the night was viewed by AFC President Muhammad Bin Hamam who is the key man in deciding whether Palestine will be able to host all their home games. Most of the players on this squad will now be looking to break into the first team.

Positives: Palestine did not back down. The crowd got behind them and they really put Thailand on the back foot. The goal from Abu Habeeb was fantastic and he is one to watch for in the future. Khaled Jamal's energetic performance deserved a goal, he held up play very well. Individually, you can't really pick out a player who underachieved.

Negatives: A lack of finishing in the final third can always spell potential doom. But even the best players suffer from such spells, you can't help but think that the team could have used Ashraf Nu'man and Eyad Abugharqud who are with the full national team. The biggest negative was the fact that a lot of the fans left the stadium, apparently unaware that there was an extra-time period to be played.

Star Player: Abu Habeeb is the real deal. Some of the commentators were complaining about his performance not being up to snuff. I think they're suffering from serious myopia, you can't expect Abu Habeeb to dominate an Olympic Qualifier the way he does a WBPL match.

What's Next: Only a couple of players will be around by the time 2016 rolls around, most these players will be looking to break-in to the first team. Abu Habeeb, Hicham Ali, and Mustafa Abu Kweik seem ready to make that jump.

Live Blog: Palestine vs Thailand - Olympic Qualifier {1-0} Aggregate 1-1 -- Penalty shootout

The Faisal Husseini Stadium is packed on this dreary day as Palestine host Thailand in this first ever competitive match on home soil.

10' Lots of energy from our side reaching the Thailand box a few times, Thailand have come close as well but nothing too dangerous.

11' Hisham Ali shoots just wide of the goal! This right after a dangerous Palestine free kick..

12' The Thai keeper forced to intercept a Palestine cross into the box. Our players are really feeding off the energy in the stadium

19' Defender Mahmoud El Koury skillfully strips Thai player of ball in the box. This match is fast paced! Palestine have been dangerous with set pieces so far...

21' Palestine counter attack! Thaer Kara'in tries his luck with a long shot, saved by the keeper

24' Palestine's closest attempt yet, Khalid Salim receiving a long ball from the defence and was looking to score, crowded by Thai defenders he moved the ball to Ali Khatib who missed an almost open net.

27' Tawfik Ali is playing a solid game in net, calmly eliminating any threats

37' Thailand counter-attacks are a source of worry at the moment

45' GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Palestine!!!! Beautiful volley from outside the box by Abdelhamid Abu Habib

A perfect way to end the half! HALFTIME

Thoughts: Palestine have controlled the half, likely due to Thailands conservatism in play. We came close to scoring more than once and there is room for more goals. Markaz Tulkarems Khalid Salim has proved instrumental in numerous attacks though he needs more support. Defense has been solid when needed but a few Thai counter attacks provided a scare. Dont expect Thailand to hold back in the second half, they might push forward more. In turn we should play on the momentum and rely on our twelfth man.

Second half kicks we go!

We fare quite well in our winter weather, especially playing teams from more tropical climates. Look back to 2006 vs Singapore...

52' Khalid Salim drives a long pass to Hisham Ali from out wide only for him to be a few steps behind!

55' Offside call on Thailand...looks questionable.

58' Confusion ensues in the box after a Thai corner...Thailand coming close, ball cleared out.

60' Free kick for Palestine from a dangerous position - played too wide.

Ive lost the stream on my end...keeping updated through kooora. Will keep you posted

Heres the replay of the first goal...

Ali Khatib shoots over the crossbar...hes being lamented by kooora members for selfishness.

Second Half Ends - We move into extra time

Radio Ajyal - live commentary (Arabic) - Penalty Shootout at the moment!

Live Penalties
Palestine OOOOOXX
Thailand OOOOOXO

Game over - Congrats Thailand...hardluck Palestine.

WATCH Palestine vs Thailand

Preview: Palestine Olympic Team vs. Thailand (2nd Leg)

What: Olympic Qualifier Return Leg
When: March 9th, 2011
Where: Al-Ram, Palestine
Kick-0ff: 1600 GMT

TV: Palestine Satellite TV
Stream: Check the kooora forums before kick-off.

There's no understating the importance of this game. Its the first competitive match to take place on Palestinian soil and the second FIFA sanctioned event (the first being the 2008 friendly vs. Jordan). All the big dignitaries will be there including AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam, who may just be launching a campaign to challenge FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Thailand arrived in Palestine on Monday after arriving in Jordan in the early hours of the morning and crossing the border. We haven't heard of the Thais encountering any difficulty at the hands of the Israelis but the border crossing tends to take at least four hours. The Thais who have a horrendous record in the Middle East have been promised 1 million Baht ($33,000) if they beat Al-Fursan. The relatively chilly weather (~10 Celsius) could also provide problems for the Elephants.

As for Palestine, the team is expected to be greeted by a capacity crowd at the Faisal Al-Husseini Memorial Stadium. The squad has been boosted by the additions of Thaer Qaraeen and Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb both of whom are expected to play a part in this game. The team is expected to lineup again in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Trailing 1-0 after the first game in Bangkok expect the team to come out conservatively and to try and establish some sort of a foothold before unleashing their attack.

Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Toufic Ali (GK); Fayez Aslieh, Mustafa Abu Kweik (c), Nadim Barghouthi, Ahmad Abdullah; Mohammed Sadoody, Ali El-Khatib, Ahmed Mearry, Hicham Ali; Abdelhamid Abu Habeeb, Khaled Jamal.

Prediction: Palestine 1 : 0 Thailand

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Pakistan 0 : 0 Palestine

Starting XI (3-5-2): Shbair; Hijazi, Mahdi, Abu Saleh; Alhendi, Wadi, Obeid (c), Ashraf Nu'man, Murad Said; Abugharqud, Shatrit.

Recap: Mousa Bezaz rotated players to give some squad members the chance to prove themselves. Mohammed Shbair replaced Abdullah Saidawi in goal and made a couple of nice saves whilst keeping a clean sheet. There were also starts for Hussam Abu Saleh, Ayman Alhendi, Ashraf Nu'man and WBPL leading scorer Eyad Abugharqud. The best chances in the first half fell to Ashraf Nu'man in the 12th minute, Eyad Abugharqud in the 15th and Suleiman Obeid in the 39th. Atef Abu Bilal and Mohammad Jamal came on as substitutes in the second half and came close to breaking the deadlock but to no avail.

What it Means: The match will not count towards Palestine's FIFA ranking but this gave Bezaz a chance to test the depth of his squad. There might have been some hubris as to how good we are without our foreign based players after the 2-1 win but certainly that has dissipated today. Not a great result by any means against a young Pakistan side. They came to park the bus and were successful.

Positives: Mohammed Shbair made a great save in the dying minutes to preserve the 0-0 draw. Despite the scoreline, Palestine dominated proceedings.

Negatives: Suleiman Obeid, one of the teams best attackers left the field with an injury late in the first half.

What's Next: Palestine will depart for Kuwait tomorrow to start a training camp ahead of the AFC Asian Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Myanmar. They are slated to face Kuwait in an unofficial friendly on the 14th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Palestine v Pakistan Pictures

Heres a slideshow courtesy of

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Pakistan 1 : 2 Palestine

Highlights (Thanks Amin)

Starting XI (3-5-2): Saidawi, Samer Hijazi, Ahmed Harbi, Mohammed Al-Masri, Khader Yousef, Murad Said, Houssam Wadi, Ismail Amour (Mohammed Jamal46'), Suleiman Obeid, Atef Abu Bilal (Ashraf Nu'man 46'), Mohammed Shatrit (Eyad Abugharqud 60').

Goals: Atef Abu Bilal 24', Houssam Wadi (p.) 29'

Recap: Palestine beat Pakistan with first half goals from Atef Abu Bilal (FK) and a Houssam Wadi Penalty. Later in the first half, Ahmed Harbi fouled a Pakistan player in the box to give Pakistan their lone goal. Despite, the modest scoreline, it was by all accounts, an easy game for Al-Fursan who retained a 100% record against the South Asian side. The second half saw Palestine go all out to extend their lead but were stymied by the keeper and the woodwork. In the last 10 minutes Palestine sat back and defended their lead comfortably happy to relegate the hosts to ineffective possession of the ball and half-chances at goal.

What it Means: Nothing. Other than the morale boost for our players ahead of the upcoming 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Myanmar. FIFA will not recognize this match as an official friendly and has taken it off its website. Pakistan fielded its Olympic side while we fielded a side made up solely of WBPL-based players. Palestine maintain their 100% record over Pakistan.

Positives: For once, Palestine is dominating and not being dominated. It was obvious to the 5,000 at Punjab Stadium (hilariously and officially known the Gaddafi Sports Complex) that Palestine was the better team. You have to like that Palestine wasted no time in putting goals on the board, they were up 2-0 after 30 minutes of action.

Negatives: Giving up the penalty. It shows that this group of players isn't as good without the likes of Jarun and Bahdari marshaling the back-line. Up by two goals and dominating Palestine should have never given the opposition a way back into the game. The players will not get away with this sort of mistake in a competitive match because they simply aren't good enough to overcome self-inflicted mistakes. If we are unable to secure some of our players based abroad to bolster our defence I think we might be very vulnerable come the Challenge Cup Qualifiers.

What's Next: Palestine will face Pakistan again, this time in Karachi, on Friday (March 4th). Kickoff is slated for 1400 GMT.