Preview: Palestine vs. UAE (2018 World Cup Qualifier)

Palestine hosts UAE in their first home game in over four years.

Game Information

What: 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying
When: September 8th, 2015
Where: Faisal Al-Husseini Memorial Stadium, Al-Ram, Palestine  
Kickoff: 17:00 Local
Streams/TV: game  available on Dubai Sport, Abu Dhabi Sport 2, BeIn Sport 1, Falasteen Mubasher.

Previous Encounters: 
November 1999 (Pan Arab Games): Palestine 1:0 UAE
July 2006 (WAFF Championship): Palestine 0:0 UAE
October 2009 (Friendly): UAE 1:1 Palestine
February 2012 (Friendly): UAE 3:0 Palestine

Suspensions: Palestine national team manager Abdel-Nasser Barakat was handed a one match touchline ban by the AFC for his comments towards Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim. Barakat was upset that the referee allowed play to go on past the stated amount of extra time and suggested that Arab referees not be assigned to adjudicate games involving Arab teams.

More after the jump…

Long wait comes to an end 

Contrary to some press reports, this isn’t the first time Palestine hosts a competitive match at home. In fact, this is the third qualifier and fourth ever full-international match hosted by Al-Fida’i. The last match was contested over four years ago; a spirited 2-2 draw saw Palestine eliminated from 2014 World Cup contention at the hands of Thailand.

Since then fans of the national team had to make due with the Olympic team or B-team contesting matches against national sides of similar stature.

UAE prepare in Jordan 

In a bizarre set of circumstances, the UAE decided to train in Jordan for two days as opposed to traveling directly to Palestine. The reasoning given by the Emirati FA was that this was designed to give UAE an opportunity to acclimate to playing on an artificial surface (despite the fact they could have trained on an artificial surface in Palestine) . The two days spent in Jordan meant they only made it to their team hotel in Ramallah early on Monday morning- giving the team only a single training session in Palestine before the game.

For their part The Whites are coming off a 10-0 drubbing of Malaysia. It’s a much needed confidence booster for a side that had only mustered two goals in their last three games before that.

Competition for places 

Stand-Ins: Haitham Dheeb and Noureddine

Barakat and his assistant- Nouredinne Walid Ali- will have some tough choices to make regarding the starting eleven. Specifically on how best to incorporate the foreign legion that joined after the Lebanon friendly. Toufic Ali, Haitham Dheeb, Abdallah Jaber, Pablo Tamburrini, Mohammed Darwish, and Matías Jadue should keep their starting spots while the other half of the lineup will be a mystery to even the closest observers.

Latest reports have Javier Cohene in a race against time to be fit for the match- if he can’t go, expect to see Tamer Salah partner Haitham Dheeb (who will captain the side) in the heart of the defence.

Alexis Norambuena’s fitness is also in doubt- despite going the full 90 minutes against Lebanon- which opens the door for Mus’ab Al-Battat should he be healthy enough to go. There’s also a possibility that Jaka Ihbeihsheh’s versatility sees him deployed as a right back as opposed to a winger.

Further up the pitch, Palestine will have the luxury of choosing between two creative midfielders in Jonathan Cantillanas and Abdelhamid Abuhabib should they choose to deploy a 4-2-3-1 as opposed to a 4-4-1-1.

There are no shortage of options on the wing with the aforementioned Ihbeisheh joining the likes of Imad Zatara, Mahmoud Eid, Sameh Mar’aba, and Tamer Seyam. It remains to be seen whether or not Zatara is healthy enough to go the distance and whether or Palestine will move Eid to the midfield role where he has excelled for Nyköpings.

Keys to the game 

Palestine will need to remain organized and compact in defence if they are to get anything out of this game. The UAE is not very adept at breaking organized teams down and are often over reliant on Omar Abdelrahman’s brilliance to spring their forwards loose.  Mohammed Darwish will most likely be asked to shadow Abdelrahman throughout the day.

Barakat will also want to think about ways to exploit Abdelrahman’s defensive indiscipline- and this is why we could see three physical and active midfielders start the game (Cantillana in front of the double pivot of Tamburrini and Darwish).

For the UAE’s part they will need to adapt quickly to their first game in a partisan stadium since their semifinal loss to Australia in Newcastle. In that game, Australia was up 2-0 after 14 minutes and never looked back. The UAE will need to survive the first ten minutes and must be wary of Palestine’s knack for scoring early at home (all three previous matches saw goals inside the first 10 minutes).

Probable Starting XIs

UAE: No anticipated changes
Will Palestine pack the midfield?


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