AFC Asian Cup 2019, Team Preview: Palestine
Palestine find themselves in a formidable group against defending champions Australia and their West Asian rivals Syria and Jordan. Their only chance of qualification hinges on their performance against their West Asian opponents which remains a distant dream considering the form that Syria had shown in the lead-up to the tournament.
Palestine are competing in their second successive Asian Cup tournament after making their tournament debut last time in Australia. They got hammered by Japan, Iraq, and Jordan in the group stage to finish at the bottom in 16th position. Jaka Ihbeisheh was their lone goal scorer in 2015.
Palestine made their debut in the last edition in 2015 and got knocked out in the group stages after losing all their three matches. They would hope to turn the tide in 2019 and register their first victory in the Asian Cup.
They have been very busy playing in 15 friendlies the past year. Recording just three wins against lower-ranked nations would not have been the ideal preparation for Noureddine Ould Ali’s wards. The lone glowing spot would be their drawn games against higher ranked Iran, Iraq, China, and the Kyrgyz Republic.
Sameh Maraaba scored seven goals during his side‘s qualification campaign for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Playing in the West Bank Premier League for Ahli Al-Khaleel, he needs to produce the same form he displayed during the qualifiers to put Palestine through to the knock-outs.
The Knights Captain Abdelatif Bahdari plays for Markaz Balata in the West Bank Premier League. With 15 goals from 89 appearances as a Centre-back for Palestine, he would be key in directing the defensive line if they would want to progress to the next stage.
Sunday, 06 January 2019: Palestine (99) vs Syria (74) - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah at 21:30 IST.
Friday, 11 January 2019: Palestine (99) vs Australia (41) - Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 16:30 IST.
Tuesday, 15 January 2019: Palestine (99) vs Jordan (109) - Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 21:30 IST.
Palestine have never recorded a victory over Jordan and Australia. They got the better of Syria in one of their eight games. If they manage a draw against Syria or Jordan, it could reserve them a spot in the last sixteen.
If they get through as the third best team, they will play top-seeds Iran against whom they have never managed a victory in their five previous appearances.
Average Age: 27 years.
International Caps: 601.
International Goals: 97.
Head Coach: Noureddine Ould Ali (Algeria).
Goalkeepers: Tawfiq Ali (Taraji Wadi Al-Nes), Amr Kaddura (Landskrona BoIS), Rami Hamadeh (Hilal Al-Quds).
Defenders: Daniel Mustafá (Sarmiento de Leones [es]), Mohammed Saleh (Floriana FC), Tamer Salah (Hilal Al-Quds), Musab Al-Battat (Ahli Al-Khaleel), Jaka Ihbeisheh (NK Bravo), Abdullah Jaber (Ahli Al-Khaleel), Abdelatif Bahdari (captain) (Markaz Balata), Alexis Norambuena (Deportes Melipilla).
Midfielders: Mohammed Bassim (Shabab Al-Bireh), Shadi Shaban (Ahli Al-Khaleel), Jonathan Cantillana (Hilal Al-Quds), Tamer Seyam (Hassania Agadir), Sameh Maraaba (Ahli Al-Khaleel), Pablo Tamburrini (Shabab Al-Bireh), Oday Dabbagh (Hilal Al-Quds), Nazmi Albadawi (FC Cincinnati), Mohammed Darweesh (Hilal Al-Quds).
Strikers: Yashir Islame (Coquimbo Unido), Khaled Salem (Markaz Balata), Mahmoud Wadi (Al-Masry).