|Mahmoud has revolutionized Palestine’s style of play|
It has been a week since Palestine valiantly exited the 2012 WAFF Championship at the group stage. Along the way, the team managed to thrill the fans in Kuwait, record their first ever victory at the tournament, and completely change the way Palestinian Football is perceived.
What is obvious to anyone who has watched the team over the past month is that it is now subscribed to playing proactively. The bunker ball tactics of years past is no longer a hallmark of Palestinian football and the inferiority complex that hung over the squad when faced with West Asian opposition has been eviscerated.
It goes without saying that this is a team still addressing its weaknesses and flaws- and some of those flaws are to blame for a group stage exit. Despite this setback and failure to progress past the group stage at the Arab Cup Jamal Mahmoud has won aplenty in his first year as manager; the team reached the semifinals of the Pan Arab Games, the semifinals of the Challenge Cup, and lifted the Nakba Cup on home soil.
With twenty games under his belt, Mahmoud will need to use the next year to determine how to make his squad stronger. The weaknesses are obvious: the team lacks depth at left back, has yet to find its strongest centre back partnership, and will need to find a striker with good aerial presence.
Ramzi Saleh- There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how dependable, consistent, and clutch the Captain has been through the years. He conceded twice against Kuwait thanks to a uncalled handball and a penalty conceded by Omar Jarun. After those first six minutes of madness, Saleh put on a goalkeeping clinic and stifled the Kuwaitis at every turn.
Mohammed Shbair- Made two key saves in a shutout of Lebanon and was at ease commanding his back line could have done enough to regain the number two spot from Toufic Ali.
Toufic Ali- Shaky against Oman and unconvincing at club level this season for Wadi Al-Nes might be a couple of years away from developing into a goalkeeper at this level.
Alexis Norambuena- Fantastic in defence and attack; set up Abugharqud against Lebanon. Unquestioned starter at left back.
Raed Fares- Solid, versatile but lacks pace became the default starter at right back with Ahmed Harbi and Mustafa Abusidu overlooked for the squad.
Omar Jarun- A mixed bag for the Chareroi man as he lacked some match sharpness. Too similar to play alongside Mustafá but showed his experience when he came on as a sub in the other two games.
Daniel Kabir Mustafá- Committed a fatal error when he back heeled a cross off the line against Kuwait, although the play was a handball the clearance was far too casual.
Khaled Mahdi- Underrated but brings a lot of unique skills to the table. He’s fast, built like a brick house, and is a decent marker. He’ll be vilified for that errant pass to Alexis Norambuena that resulted in Oman’s first goal but this tournament has definitely upped his stock.
Hani Naboulse- Did not play a single minute of the WAFF tournament but showed a lot of potential in the friendlies against Syria. One to watch for.
Ahmed Salameh- N/A
Abdelhamid Abuhabib- A great passer and perhaps the best trequartista Palestine has ever produced but will need to improve his fitness if he wants to become an effective 90-minute player.
Mousa Abu Jazar- Versatile holding midfielder with attacking prowess and a mean free kick. Definitely not cut out for left back duty against established international sides but should see more time in the middle of the pitch if the left back void is filled.
Husam Abu Saleh- Extremely active grinder on the right flank. Brings a ton of experience to the side having played in the UEFA Cup with Bnei Sakhnin.
Ma’ly Kawre- Average midfielder, put in another average, ho-hum performance during this WAFF Tournament.
Mahmoud Salah- Got a surprise first start against Lebanon and did pretty well. At only 19 years of age this defensive midfielder could be a staple of many squads in the future.
Khader Yousef- Is at the heart of Jamal Mahmoud plans helps shield the defence, sprays the ball to the wings, and gets involved in the attack as well. Won his 40th cap during this WAFF tournament and could very well become Palestine’s most capped outfield player in the near future.
Imad Zatara- Has scored goals in the following countries: Sweden, Hungary, France, Qatar, Iran, and now Kuwait. Had a very good tournament and will feature at many more to come.
Eyad Abugharqud- Will go down in the history books for scoring the winner against Lebanon but moght not be the answer at striker. Abugharqud strives at using his speed to get behind the defense Palestine’s slower buildup play and dependence on crossing means Mahmoud will need to find a striker comfortable playing with his back to goal with good aerial ability.
Ashraf Nu’man- Player of the tournament, really coming into his own as a goalscorer. Causes fits for opposing defences who often resort to fouling him in order to stop him.
Khaldoun Al-Halman- N/A