Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mohammed Al-Masri officially announces his retirement

As most of you may know by now Mohammed Al-Masri has called time on his career due to a heart condition that required surgery to insert a pacemaker. Al-Masri is one of the lucky ones alongside the likes of Real Madrid's Rubén De La Red and Bolton's Fabrice Muamba. The former captain of Yarmouk (JOR) experienced heart palpitations whilst warming up before Shabab Al-Dhahrieh's Yasser Arafat Cup semifinal match against Thaqafi Tulkarem. If it were not for the quick thinking of the medical team on the ground (A result of full-scale professionalization)- Al-Masri may not be alive to tell his story.

Al-Masri had to bide his time on the bench or at home under Moussa Bezaz despite being highly rated by fans of The Oryxes. His first cap coincided with the worst loss in Palestine's modern history a 7-0 loss to Iran in a game that Palestine played without a manager and some key players (for political reasons the players with Israeli travel documents were omitted from the squad). That said, Al-Masri's performance at the Pan Arab Games whilst playing with injury is nothing short of heroic. He might be retiring with only five caps but he will be remembered for the size of his metaphorical heart.

In an interview with Capitano Al-Masri told of his plans to remain affiliated with the footballing world and he is seriously considering obtaining his coaching badges. The defender may have  retired but he is looking forward to moving on: He will become a father for the second time in a couple of months and there is the small matter of a testimonial match Al-Dhahrieh is sure to organize after the end of the season. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Challenge Cup Review

It's been exactly a week since Palestine was knocked out of the Challenge Cup by holders and eventual champions DPR Korea. We take a look back at what went right, what went wrong, and what the future holds for Al-Fursan:

No longer a fringe player

Best Player: Murad Ismail

The only Palestinian player to make our Challenge Cup Best XI. Ismail was adept at breaking up attacks and shielding the defence from the oppositions most dangerous midfielders and was split out wide at times to help cover for Hussam Abu Saleh's defensive frailties. In essence, whatever needed to be done to ensure Palestine a victory he did it- and with aplomb. Palestine had been missing a a true holding midfielder since the Abdalas (Pablo and Edgardo) left the national team fold, not anymore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Challenge Cup Best XI

I had planned to include more Palestinians in this formation but a poor display against Philippines ruled out many players. I will probably write something about Palestine's performance a little later this week but for now I leave you with FP's Team of the Tournament. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rapid Reaction: Philippines 4:3 Palestine

Abuhabib: Palestine's best player today

Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Wadi (Jamal 35'), Kawre' (Barghouthi 76'), Khader Youssef, Samara (Nu'man 51'); Abuhabib, Attal.

Goals: Abuhabib (21, 67), Attal (78)
Bookings: Harbi (24), Abujazr (34), Abu Saleh (73), Ramzi Saleh (90+3)

Recap: The Third-Place Playoff. Otherwise known as the I'd rather be somewhere else Championship. In most tournaments these affairs tend to be high scoring, sloppy, thoroughly entertaining affairs that provide great entertainment for the neutral follower. Philippines vs. Palestine fit the bill almost perfectly. Al-Fursan who had been lauded for their organization and defensive stoutness during the Challenge Cup were caught napping repeatedly during the first half. Phil Younghusband opened the scoring inside the first four minutes. Some truly atrocious defending allowed Phil Younghusband to skip past three defenders en route to slipping the ball to Saleh's left for the opener.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Preview: Palestine v Philippines

Game Information:
What: 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Third Place Playoff
Where: Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal
When: March 19th, 2012 
Kickoff:0845 GMT
Streams: //

FIFA Rank: 156th (26th in AFC)
Previous Meetings:  D 0-0 (2012 Challenge Cup Qualifying)

Philippines Recent Results:
16/03/2012 v. Turkmenistan L 1-2
13/03/2012 v. Tajikistan W 2-1
11/03/2012 v. India W 2-0 
09/03/2012 v. DPR Korea L 0-2
29/02/2012 v. Malaysia D 1-1

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0:2 DPR Korea (Challenge Cup Semifinal)

Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Samara (Khaled Salem 69'), Ismail, Khader Youssef, Ashraf Nu'man (Mohammed Jamal 84'); Attal, Attieh (Kawre' 47'). 

Bookings: Abu Saleh 65', Ramzi Saleh 85'

Preview: How Palestine can beat DPR Korea

Hussam Abu Saleh (L) could be Palestine's key player

It is, without a doubt, the biggest game game in Palestine's footballing history and will only be eclipsed should Palestine win and make the final next week. Al-Fursan are two wins away from a place at Australia 2015 alongside the hosts, holders Japan, and Korea Republic. Before dreaming of kangaroos and koalas the Palestinians must find a way past DPR Korea- the current Challenge Cup holders. The Chollima were also World Cup Finals participants in 2010- making this Palestine's first game against a finalist since their 2-0 loss to Iran in the 2007 WAFF Championships.

Al-Fursan  will most likely not outlast the Chollima in a marathon 120-minute match. Playing out a 0-0 stalemate as they did last week against Turkmenistan will most definitely play into the hands of the North Koreans whose fitness levels are amongst the best in Asia. That said, Palestine do have an extra day's rest and are more battle-hardened than the Koreans who have been coasting since their 3rd minute goal against Tajikistan in their second game. Palestine on the other hand were not sure of qualification until Houssam Wadi's 59th minute opener against the Maldives. In sports, sometimes the team that has had the easy route can get caught up in a complacent attitude. We shall see if that is the case with DPR Korea tomorrow.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Challenge Cup semi-finals got you tense? Why not a feel-good post...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scouting the Opponent: DPR Korea

Pak Nam-Chol: One of eight DPR Korea players with World Cup experience 

Game Information:
What: Challenge Cup Semifinal
Where: Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal
When: March 16th, 2012
Kick-off:1245 GMT

Previous Encounters: None at senior level.  

Recent Results:
17/02/2012 v. Kuwait D 1-1
29/02/2012 v. Tajikistan D 1-1
09/03/2012 v. Philippines W 2-0
11/03/2012 v. Tajikistan W 2-0 
13/03/2012 v. India W 4-0 

Challenge Cup History: Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the 2010 FIFAWorld Cup Finalists is: Why are they participating in a competition meant for emerging associations. There is no easy answer. The precedent for this started when the Asian Football Confederation allowed Bangladesh and India (classified as developing associations) to participate in the inaugural 16-team edition in 2006 due to the withdrawal of Mongolia, Laos, and Timor-Leste. 

Since entering the competition in 2008 the Chollima have exerted their dominance over feeble opposition.  Their record in the competition is remarkably similar to that of Palestine. They have only one loss to their name, which came to Central Asian opposition in the shape of a 1-0 semifinal loss to Tajikistan (Palestine's lone reverse was a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Kyrgyzstan in 2006). Their defence has only let in three goals over their past three participations while Palestine have only conceded four overall. True to form, both teams will come into Friday's semifinal on the back of 270 minute shutouts. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rapid Reaction: Maldives 0:2 Palestine (2012 Challenge Cup)

Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Ismail, Samara, Wadi, Nu'man; Attal, Attieh 

Goals: Houssam Wadi 59' Ashraf Nu'man 90+4' 

Substitutions: Attieh <-> Khader Youssef 77' // Wadi <-> Abuhabib 85' // Samara <-> Jamal 87'

Bookings: Ahmed Harbi 8', Houssam Wadi 37' (misses next match), Mohammed Samara 84'

Recap: A dominant display by Palestine clinched a semifinal berth and a semifinal date with holders Korea DPR. The scoreline doesn't really reflect the dominance Palestine enjoyed in this match as Maldivian goalkeeper Imran Mohammed made six quality saves which kept the Maldives's faint qualification hopes alive up until Ashraf Nu'man's clinching goal in extra time. Mohammed made a fine double save in the first half stymying the best efforts of Houssam Wadi and Alaa Attieh. In the second half, he made one-on-one stops on Ashraf Nu'man and Mohammed Samara. His counterpart Ramzi Saleh, on the other hand, barely had a save to make- tipping a solitary shot over the bar in the second half. Defensively, Palestine were stout and even when the Red Snappers threw everything at Palestine they never looked under threat to relinquish their lead.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Scouting the Opponent: Maldives

Ali Ashfaq- A marked man.

Game Information: 
When: March 12th, 2012
Kickoff: 9.15 GMT 
Where: Halchowk Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal 

FIFA Rank: 174th (36th in AFC)

Previous Encounters: None

Recent Results:

10/03/2012 v. Nepal W 1-0
08/03/2012 v. Turkmenistan L 1-3
24/02/2012 v. Thailand L 0-3
09/12/2011 v. India L 1-3
06/12/2011 v. Bangladesh W 3-1
04/12/2011 v. Pakistan D 0-0
02/12/2011 v. Nepal D 1-1

Saturday, March 10, 2012

AFC Challenge Cup: Matchday 3 set to be decisive for Group A

Fahed Attal picks out Alaa Attieh - giving Palestine the lead over Nepal in the opening match

Today as the teams of group A wrapped up their second round of matches, the group has started to look a lot more interesting. Here is how the standings look:

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0:0 Turkmenistan (2012 Challenge Cup)

Attieh & Co. couldn't find the back of the net against Turkmenistan

Starting XI: Toufic Ali; Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Samara, Khader Youssef, Ismail, Ashraf Nu'man; Attal, Attieh

Substitutions: Attieh <-> Abuhabib 61' // Ismail <-> Wadi 79' // Samara <-> Nu'man 83'
Bookings: Attieh 33', Attal 45'

Highlights to follow....

Recap: A pretty dull first half with no clear-cut chances for either side gave way to a more entertaining and open second half. Ahmed Harbi made his return from suspension with manager Jamal Mahmoud electing to use him as a centre back. The other surprise selection was the absence of captain Ramzi Saleh in goal. The Smouha 'keeper appeared to have injured himself whilst making a spectacular one-on-one save in the match against Nepal but saw that match through. Toufic Ali started in his place and gave a competent performance; he was helped by an improved defence which marked Turkmenistan's maestro Ruslan Mazingov tightly.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scouting the Opponent: Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan: One of the World's prettiest flags 

Game Information: 
When: March 10th, 2012
Kickoff: 9.15 GMT
Where: Halchwok Stadium. Kathmandu, Nepal

FIFA Rank: 166th (32nd in AFC)

Previous Encounters: None

Recent Results: 
08/03/2012 v. Maldives W 3-1
29/02/2012 v. Dinamo Batumi (Georgia) L 0-2
27/02/2012  v. Concordia Chiajna (Romania) L 0-3  
25/02/2012 v. Aktobe (Kazakhstan) L 0-1 
29/01/2012 Turkmenistan 1-0 Petrolul (Romania)
27/01/2012 v. Romania L 0-4
26/01/2012  Legia Warsawa (Poland) L 1-4
21/01/2012 v. Khazar Lankaran (Azerbaijan) L 1-3
28/07/2011 v. Indonesia L 3-4
23/07/2011 v. Indonesia D 1-1

Background: The Turkmen were a penalty shootout away from winning the last edition of the Challenge Cup but came up short against World Cup finalists Korea DPR. The Green Men might be the lowest ranked side in the competition but they were on the brink of the third round of World Cup qualifying- falling short by a single goal at the hands of Indonesia (Palestine and Turkmenistan will be tied for 21st in the 2018 World Cup seeding if the AFC votes to retain the current qualification format). Manager Yazguly Hojageldiyev prepared his side for the competition with a month-long training camp in the warm auspices of Anatalya. Results during said training camp were underwhelming and dented talk of Turkmenistan as one of the favorites to lift the trophy. Turkmenistan started off nervously against Maldives but rebounded and finished off the islanders in the second half with minimal fuss. The big decision for Mahmoud will be how to line up his team to guard against the best attack (thusfar) in the Challenge Cup. Mahmoud will most likely revert back to a more proactive style of play- look for Palestine to exploit the Turkmen defence by maintaing possession and pressing for the ball in the opposition's half.

Challenge Cup Squad: The Green Men are without their players currently plying their Trade in Europe. Rubin Kazan's Wahyt Orazsahedow is the most prominent absentee.

Key Player: Arslan Amanov ran his socks off against Maldives and was rewarded with the clinching third goal. Will he and the rest of the Green Men  have enough energy to play with same verve remains to be seen. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rapid Reaction: Nepal 0:2 Palestine (2012 Challenge Cup)

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-2): Ramzi Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Wadi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Mohammed Samara, Khader Youssef, Murad Ismail, Ashraf Nu'man; Attal, Attieh. 

Goals: Attieh 3', Attal 64' (Highlights to follow)
Substitutes: Attieh <-> Abuhabib 71' // Attal <-> Salameh 85'
Bookings: Houssam Wadi 73'

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Challenge Cup: Formations & Tactics

With the Challenge Cup kicking off tomorrow Football Palestine previews how Jamal Mahmoud's team will lineup.

By far the most pressing issue for Palestine going forward is the shortage of defenders available to the team. Established names such as Majed Abusidu, Abdelatif Bahdari, Roberto Bishara, and Omar Jarun miss out because their clubs are not required to release them for the non-FIFA sanctioned Challenge Cup (despite the competition being akin to Asian Cup Qualifying). Newly called-up Haitham Khaduj (Tadamon Sour/LIB) and Mohammed Ghannam (Tripoli/LIB) couldn't get visas to the UAE and missed training camp as a result. Domestic based defenders Mohammed Al-Masri is out with a long-term injury and the man who partnered him for most of the Pan-Arab Games- Haitham Dheeb- couldn't travel due to work reasons (He's a schoolteacher). Ra'fit Eyad (who also moonlights as a schoolteacher) was due to join the side in Nepal until a car accident sidelined him for a month.To top all this off Raed Fares pulled out of the squad with injury and Ahmed Harbi will miss the first game due to yellow card accumulation.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Scouting the Opponent: Nepal

Nepal: Nonconformists 

Game Information      
When: March 8th, 2012
Kickoff: 11:15 GMT
Where: Dasarath Rangasala Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal

FIFA Rank: 152nd (26th in AFC)

Previous Encounters: 
Nepal 0:0 Palestine (2010 Challenge Cup Qualifiers)

Recent Results:
11/10/2011 v. Philippines L 0-4
02/12/2011 v. Maldives  D 1-1 
04/12/2011 v. Bangladesh  W 1-0
06/12/2011 v. Pakistan  D 1- 1 
09/12/2011 v. Afghanistan L 0-1 a.e.t

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eyes on Nepal

2012 Challenge Cup- Will the state of Nepal's pitches affect play?

If you only casually follow our National Team's news, or have an interest in it that can best be described as remote, this post is for you. I will highlight why you should be very interested in the news that will be coming out of Nepal in the coming weeks, where Palestine will be participating in the AFC Challenge Cup.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Azerbaijani sour grapes make fine whine

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev didn't take the loss too well.

From what I saw of yesterday's match it was a well-balanced affair that saw Palestine deservedly win. For whatever reason, most of the Azerbaijani contingent didn't see it that way.

"This was just a test match for me"
-Azerbaijan Manager Berti Vogts

"To lose is always unpleasant but I can say that the referee from the UAE of today's match does not know what football is. He broke our game.

...Palestine is not such a strong team to lose it. As I said, we should not relax and play every game seriously. The main goal for the Dubai gathering was to test the young players. And we made it."

-Assistant Manager Nazim Suleymanov

Rapid Reaction: Palestine 2:0 Azerbaijan (Friendly)

Palestine Starting XI (4-4-2): Toufic Ali (GK); Fares, Harbi, Jarun, Abujazr; Abu Saleh, Kawre', Khader Youssef, Samara; Nu'man, Attal (C)

Substitutions: Abuhabib <-> Attal // Barghouthi <-> Kawre' //  Jamal <-> Abu Saleh // Attieh <-> Samara // Wadi <-> Khader Youssef

Goals: Hussam Abu Saleh 40' // Ashraf Nu'man 78'

First UEFA scalp: In beating Azerbaijan, Palestine beat a European side for the first time in its history and in its first attempt. In his first 3 months in charge Jamal Mahmoud has beaten teams from Asia, Africa, and Europe.