Palestine’s latest two fixtures mark one year since Jamal Mahmoud took over the national team post. We thought it would be a good idea to look at how the team has preformed under his stewardship.
Over the past 12 months, Jamal Mahmoud has equalled the national team’s best ever finish at a Pan-Arab Games (Semifinals) as well as guiding the national team to their first ever Challenge Cup semifinal, losing to the holders and eventual champions DPR Korea. There were notable wins over Azerbaijan (Palestine’s first win over a UEFA opponent) and Syria (Palestine’s first win over their West Asian foes). There have also been some lows particularly in consolation round at the Pan-Arab Games as well as the Challenge Cup.
In competitive fixtures, Mahmoud showed off his excellent man management skills. Palestine opened the Pan-Arab Games with a sloppy 4-1 loss to Jordan, finishing with nine men and gifting Jordan all four of their goals. In the next match Palestine was down again, 1-0 at the hands of Libya, but clawed back to grab a late equalizer. In the third game, Palestine were all over Sudan and could have won by four.
The only time Mahmoud failed to lead the national team past a group stage was at the Arab Cup. Perhaps they were doomed by a combination of bad luck, a three team group, and a poor first half against Kuwait. That said there were positives to take from the tournament, including a commanding display against hosts and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Palestine put itself in a hole early but fought back valiantly. A comeback win would have been assured if Khaled Al-Zaeyli been sent off for stomping on Alexis Norambuena’s head shortly before his equalizing goal.
Tactically, Mahmoud has completely overhauled the way this team plays. Smarter teams used to exploit Palestine’s very flat midfield and back lines, which made keeping cleaning sheets an unlikely prospect. Against stronger teams there were a lot of panicked hoofed clearances and it seemed that the team hoped for, instead of expected, results.
Now there’s an air of confidence about the team; they keep their shape defensively and attack creatively with overlapping runs. Mahmoud’s tactics have revitalized the likes of Fahed Attal, Hussam Abu Saleh and Khader Yousef. There is now mounting evidence to prove that Palestine may finally be ready to make an impact at the WAFF Championship next month as Al-Fursan have only lost once in their last six encounters against West Asian opponents (2-3-1).
Matches in FIFA Registry
Goal Differential: -4 (18-22)