Preview: Palestine v. Saudi Arabia (2014 WAFF Championship)

What: WAFF Championship (Group Stage)

When: December 28, 2012
Where: Lekhwiya Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Kickoff: 14:30 GMT
TV: Al-Kass
Streams: Stream 1

Previous Meetings (0-1-1):

Last time Around

Uhhhh…. What just happened?

The last time these two teams met was eighteen months ago at the 2012 Arab Cup. Palestine had stumbled out of the blocks against Kuwait in their first game (losing 2-0) and had conceded an early goal to the competition hosts. Ashraf Nu’man replaced Musa Abujazr in the first half as part of a tactical switch. The Bethlehem born player had an instant impact; constantly skinning Saudi Arabia’s defenders and winning a penalty towards the end of the first half. Hussam Abu Saleh duly converted to give Palestine a deserved result going into the dressing room.

In the second half Palestine took the lead- after dominating proceeds for most of the second half. Who could forget THAT expression from Frank Rijkaard? Saudi Arabia should have been a man down moments later after Khaled Al-Zyaeeli brutally stomped on Alexis Noarmbuena’s head. Saudi Arabia would go on to equalize through Al-Zyaeeli on a play that had a hint of offsides to it.

Palestine were left feeling that they had lost two points as opposed to having won a point against a traditional giant in the region. That feeling should linger in the minds of today’s players as they aim to give themselves a shot at advancing from the group stage.

Saudi Arabia Synopsis

After a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign, Saudi Arabia have hit the ground running in Asian Cup qualifying. Former Real Madrid manager Juan Ramon Lopez Caro is now at the helm and under his stewardship they became one of the first nations to qualify for the finals.

The kicker here is that Lopez Caro and Saudi Arabia’s big name players will not be participating at the 2014 WAFF Championship. Instead the FA is sending a combination of fringe players and Olympic team players to represent the country.

News about the team has been hard to come by; but several of Saudi Arabia’s big clubs refused to release players for this tournament.

Can Palestine bounce back? 

Losing in such dramatic fashion can either motivate or demoralize a team going forward. Palestine had plenty of opportunities to register a smash and grab win, or at the very least, hold on to a draw.

Despite the plaudits earned for neutralizing a squad chocked full of QSL experience (four foreign mercenaries on the pitch) Jamal Mahmoud said the focus should be on registering good results and not just good performances.

With that said, Palestine needs to focus on creating better buildups in attack to complement their solid defending. The absence of Attal and Abuhabib was felt against Qatar as Palestine’s creativity went missing for several minutes at a time. If Attal were available on Wednesday, you can’t help but think he would burry the two gilt-edged chances that fell to his replacement Abugharqud.

Barring injury I would expect Palestine to field the same starting eleven but it would not surprise me to see Swidan replace Abugharqud. Alternatively, Mahmoud could decide to play Zatara up top and bring in Maher or Qasim into the midfield.

Projected Starting XI

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