Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0 (0-3 aet) 0 Kuwait (Pan Arab Games)

Palestine Starting XI: Toufic Ali; Harbi, Al-Masri, Dheeb, Fares; Abu Saleh, Ismail, Kawre’, Nu’man; Amour; Alyan.

Substitutions: Alyan <-> Obeid / Kawre’ <-> Khader Youssef / Dheeb <-> Abu Bilal

What it Means: Palestine finish in fourth place, a more than respectable finish when you consider that Palestine finished ahead of the hosts and two African Cup of Nations finalists.

Recap: An ugly affair for the first hour punctuated by an uncharacteristic miss by Murad Alyan in the 13th minute. Apart from that, this match was sloppy and must have been painful to watch for the neutral. The final stanza came to life with Kuwait trying to press the issue- this allowed Palestine to exploit the space behind the Kuwaiti defence. Palestine came close on a number of occasions- Amour hit the post off a corner kick play and then came close again when Palestine ran the same play on their next corner. With Alyan being withdrawn after 69 minutes Palestine struggled to finish off chances. The ineptitude in front of goal was summed up when Amour sliced through the Kuwaiti defence (again) and crossed the ball to Nu’man who inexplicably headed it away instead towards the goal.
For their part, Kuwait weren’t creating many chances either. Their play was rushed, hurried, even reckless at times. Frustrated by Dheeb and Al-Masri they often resorted to lobbing balls across the face of goal. Although tentative at times, Toufic Ali had no problem in using his two meter frame to punch or pluck the danger away. That said, Toufic Ali hardly had a save to make in regulation.
It was a different matter altogether in extra time. In the first four minutes Toufic Ali was beaten by a timid shot to his right side on the first goal. Kuwait’s second goal saw indecisiveness on the young keeper’s part; Ali rushed out too late and then inexplicably failed to “make himself big” to block a close range shot. The third goal came in the final minute with Palestine valiantly chasing the game and playing with three-man defence.
What I liked: The defence, for 90 minutes Al-Masri and Dheeb in particular put together a master class. Ismail Amour also deserves a special mention- every single attacking move was a result of his relentless work rate.
What I didn’t like: The Toufic Ali project should come to an end- at least for the short term. The kid is tall and that’s the only thing he has going for him. His reflexes, especially when it comes to getting down low, are poor. He can’t take goal kicks and he is sometimes tentative when it comes to collecting crosses (You’re 2m tall! Catch don’t punch!). Murad Alyan was goalless for yet another game this tournament (he should have finished his early chance).
Squad Selection: According to Kora BaladnaJamal Mahmoud did not pick this side but it was instead picked for him by PFA officials (I am pretty sure this is how we’ve been picking teams since 2008 and that some incompetent bureaucrat forgot about the existence of Omar Jarun, amongst others). If this article is true then what Mahmoud managed to do is nothing short of miraculous. The fact that only three forwards were brought to Doha raises a red flag- Mahmoud played with two forwards tonight as well as against Libya and Sudan- an injury to Abugharqud shorthanded Palestine for most of the tournament. Defensively the team was lacking players- Barghouthi and Bahdari withdrew leaving the team with only two centre backs. It is also clear that Jamal Mahmoud had no use for some of the players in this squad, most notably, Atef Abu Bilal, who got about as much playing time as his less illustrious brother Hani during the South Africa friendlies.
What’s Next: Look for the National Team to reconvene sometime in February in preparation for the Challenge Cup.

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