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.”

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