Preview: Kuwait v. Palestine (2012 WAFF Championship)

Palestine can ill afford another lackadaisical start 

What: WAFF Championship (Group Stage)

When: Saturday, December 8th, 2012
Where: Peace & Friendship Stadium, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Kickoff: 14:45 GMT
TV: Al-Jazeera Sport Global
Stream(s): Stream 1
Previous Meetings (0-1-4)
Kuwait Synopsis

It’s hard to put a label on Kuwait. During their World Cup campaign they held South Korea to a 1-1 draw at home and pushed the Taeguk Warriors to the limit in Seoul. So why is Al-Azraq conspicuously absent from the final round? Because they underestimated Lebanon who managed to win four points off them- including a 1-0 win in Kuwait. The disappointment mean Serbian manager Goran Tufegdzic will now have to focus on preparing the team for the Gulf Cup as well as Asian Cup qualifying. 

The twenty man squad selected for the WAFF Championship is a strong one, one that can be termed as Kuwait’s best XI- even though Al-Kuwait star man Fahad Al-Enezi was excluded. Their expected line-up is littered with names that played in the Asian Cup two years ago, so while other sides are using this tournament to rebuild or blood in youngsters, it’s safe to say Kuwait is not one of them.

Projected Starting XI
Tufegdzic will most likely set up his team to play on the counter, banking on his team’s ability to exploit an errant pass or poor corner. It is a strategy that would have delivered a surefire result against Palestine under previous management. The question is how will Kuwait respond if Palestine bag an early goal as they did against Syria and Al-Shorta (and almost did against Bahrain)? 
Line-up decisions

The unexpected and yet to be unexplained absence of Ramzi Saleh means Jamal Mahmoud must choose between his two deputies. Historically, Mahmoud has favored Toufic Ali but Mohammed Shbair is in better form coming into this tournament. I expect Mahmoud to stick with Toufic Ali in an attempt to neutralize Kuwait’s threat from crosses but would not be surprised if Shbair got a run out against Lebanon or Oman. [UPDATE:] Ramzi Saleh has been released for the WAFF Championship by Smouha manager Shawki Gharib. 
Defensively, Omar Jarun should start alongside Kabir Mustafá even though the Charleroi defender has missed all of training camp. The same cannot be said for Alexis Norambuena who will have played for Jagiellonia Bialystok 18 hours earlier. Despite his reservations about the player’s tactical knowledge, I fully expect Hani Naboulse to start on the left against Kuwait. Musa Abu Jazar’s outing as a left back against Bahrain was shocking to say the least and it leaves the former Hilal Al-Quds manager  with a tough decision to make. 
Further up the pitch, look for Eyad Abugharqud to start over Khaldoun Al-Halman, as the striker’s speed helps keep defenses honest and creates space for the likes of Imad Zatara, Ashraf Nu’man, and Husam Abu Saleh to operate in. 
Projected Starting XI

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