Crunch time is fast approaching. The Asian Cup kicks off in just under 16 days. Palestine is set to travel in less than a week’s time and before that happens. There are officially 26 names under consideration, unless Ahmed El-Hassan changes his mind and pulls a fast one. Here they are ranked in order of most to least likely to make the squad:
Squad rank after the jump…
1. Ramzi Saleh (GK) C
Teams don’t tend to ditch their captains 20 days before the biggest match in their footballing history. He was granted a brief vacation and will travel from Egypt to Dubai before getting on the team plane.
2. Mahmoud Eid (FW)
Not Palestine’s second most important player by any stretch but logistics and a press release from the PFA all but guarantee him meeting up in Dubai before flying out to Australia. Palestine’s only proven striker at international level with 1 goal in 4 caps (don’t laugh).
3. Daniel Kabir Mustafa (DF)
Club commitments kept him from joining camp but with Atletico Venezuela’s campaign in the books the Argentine-born defender will travel directly to Australia.
4. Abdelatif Bahdari (DF)
Back to his best against China and a huge locker room presence. Bahdari will most likely partner Kabir reviving an effective partnership that earned plaudits during the 2014 WAFF Championship
5. Ashraf Nu’man (FW)
Freed of club commitments and ready to shine on a continental stage. The national team will go only as far as the Bethlehemite can take them.
6. Alexis Norambuena (DF)
Can play left or right back with ease. One of Palestine’s most talented players- only injury could prevent him from making the starting XI.
7. Abed Jaber (DF)
2014 has been this kid’s year. His breakout season with Hilal Al-Quds led to a training camp call-up and he has gone from strength to strength. His performances will most likely allow Alexis to line up in his preferred position as a right back.
In a cycle a coach decides pretty quickly on his two top keepers. Ramzi Saleh had been top dog and sometime in 2012 Mohammed Shbair was overtaken as the #2. The #3 spot was a carousel, but Hammadeh’ superb performance with the Olympic Team against Brazil and in the Asian Games sealed the deal. Hammadeh won’t make the field but the experience could really help his development.
10. Abdelhamid Abuhabib (MF)
The final name in the group of players who have no obvious replacement. The only player who could spell him is Hilal Musa but he has been bizarrely left out of the preliminary squad. Palestine only creative player in midfield.
11. Khader Yousef (MF)
Occupies a position that offers a host of similarly skilled alternatives. Khader Yousef however is by far the most experienced and steady of the bunch.
12. Murad Ismail (MF)
2014 AFC Challenge Cup MVP. Rubs a lot of fans the wrong way and got himself in hot water earlier this year when he went AWOL at a national team training camp. Has since recovered to score his first official goal with the national team.
13. Ahmed Maher (FW)
The Shabab Al-Dhahrieh player really upped his game after an indifferent Challenge Cup. He opened up his account against Myanmar and he has maintained that level in the October and November friendlies.
14. Raed Fares (DF)
A player who was once an unquestioned starter might find himself on the bench come January. On the other end of the spectrum he has Mus’ab Al-Battat nipping at his heels.
15. Ismail Amour (MF)
A comeback from injury has Amour in the thick of things. That said he might find himself relegated to a super sub role depending on how camp competition shakes out.
16. Haitham Dheeb (DF)
Falls down this list due to the fact that his pesky job commitments tend to get in the way of his football career. Clearly the #3 CB in camp.
17. Husam Abu Saleh (MF)
Another mainstay of the Jamal Mahmoud era but one that has levelled off in recent months. His performance against Saudi Arabia was atrocious and brought back memories of how he was deployed incorrectly by Moussa Bezzaz. He rebounded to a certain degree against Vietnam. There’s not a lot of competition for the outside midfield spots so Abu Saleh’s position should be safe.
18. Jaka Ihbeisheh (MF)
Jaka wasn’t able to effect the game against China. He’s still an unknown quantitiy and if Ahmed El-Hassan doesn’t open up the attack we may not get a chance to see his true ability.
19. Musa Abujazr (MF/DF)
If you can adapt then you can survive. Abujazr can play three different positions, he may not be the best player in the squad but he keeps things simple and can sometimes surprise with his end product. Just look at the assist he played to Abuhabib against Vietnam. His only goal for the NT was also a beauty (although I might be one of only 50 people who got to see it).
20. Mus’ab Al-Battat (DF)
Would be higher up the list if not for the depth at RB. Raed Fares has been a mainstay in the squad a near unquestioned starter on the right for the past two years. That might change if Alexis shift to the right. Which could leave the 21-year old as a surplus to requirements.
21. Adham Abu Rwais (MF)
Blistering pace and exhibting goalscoring exploits in the WBPL. Abu Rwais is raw but reminds me of a young Ashraf Nu’man. Lack of alternatives might seal the deal in his favor but might struggle to get on the field with Jaka, Amour, and Maher ahead of him on the depth chart.
22. Matias Jadue (FW)
He’s a forward that was hot property in Chile two years ago but his inability to break through a talented Universidad de Catolica side has seen him farmed out on loan. Was not able to play vs. China due to paperwork not being sorted but reports from training our positive. If Jadue can’t go… Palestine are left with no cover for Mahmoud Eid.
23. Ahmed Harbi (DF)
Mr. Versatility has forced his way back into the national team and he should make the Asian Cup squad. Provides yet another option at RB and added depth at CB. His role with team is as a CB so if Javier Cohene is called up (more on that later) Harbi would most likely fall victim to the axe.
24. Mahmoud Sheikhqasem (MF)
Al-Koori missed the Challenge Cup partly because of Olympic Team commitments. Not being with the squad for such a special moment puts a player behind the 8-ball. Musa Abujazr has done well when played and Hesham Salhe is the current flavor of the month in the Palestinian midfield.
25. Tamer Salah (DF)
Competent defender for the most part but can be ranked no higher than 5th best of the current crop. Lucky to be here over the more established Khaled Mahdi and Omar Jarun.
26. Khaled Salem (FW)
Every WBPL and Gaza league striker must be distraught at the thought of losing a chance to play for Palestine to a failed forward turned defender. Khaled Salem is physically intimidating and that presence could lead to goals against the likes of minnows that used to serve as cannon fodder in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers but he cannot play at this level. He was great in 2011 with the Olympic team assisting Abuhabib against Thailand for the winner and then dominating Bahrain over two legs but that promise has not materialized into an international footballer.
27. Javier Cohene (DF)
Palestine’s most in-form defender had been suffering from a foot injury but has since recovered. The PFA has been informed of this but will they adjust their plans? Cohene could provide an attacking edge from set pieces. There’s even speculation that he could be deployed as a midfielder. Cohene is a wild card at this point if he gets called up it could mean a RB, CM, of CB is sacrificed as a result.