No mysteries remain with ten days until the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying draw. The powers that be have finally given Kuwait their marching orders after over a year of moratoriums that failed to keep their 2018 FIFA World Cup dreams alive.
As per our sources, Kuwait have missed yet another deadline set by the Asian Football Confederation to resolve its status within FIFA. The Kuwait FA and Olympic committee were both suspended in October 2015 due to government involvement in sporting affairs.
We can confirm that Macau- courtesy of their runner up status at the Solidarity Cup will replace Kuwait at this month’s draw. Nepal, winners of the inaugural competition for developing Asian federations, replaced Guam after the Pacific islanders withdrew citing financial difficulty.
Click below to see the seeding for 2019 Asian Cup qualifying…
In any case, here is what the pots will look like based on FIFA rankings. Should the AFC opt to use the January ranking there would be no change to the seeding. Palestine could have jumped back into the first pot with one win vs. a team ranked 91st or better as per the information relayed to us by football-ranks.info. Two wins against opposition ranked 121st or better would have also done the trick.
Pot 1: Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Korea DPR, Philippines
Pot 2: India, PALESTINE, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, Turkmenistan, Vietnam
Pot 3: Maldives, Lebanon, Yemen, Chinese Taipei, Afghanistan, Myanmar
Pot 4: Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Macau*, Bhutan, Nepal**
*Replaced Kuwait who are suspended by FIFA
**Replaced Guam who pulled out due to financial difficulty
Palestine have played at least one competitive game with all possible opponents with the exception of Bhutan and Macau.
|Brett Emerton at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup Draw in Sydney|
Palestine will want to avoid the strongest team in each pot. Korea DPR, Lebanon, and Kuwait. These three teams are also likely to protest playing
|Can Palestine finally get one over Jordan?|
Possible Pot 1 opponents represent a mixed bag for Al-Fid’ai.
Cumulative Record: (4W-7D-12L)
Palestine’s best record is against the Philippines (1W 1D 1L ) with a 3-4 loss in a relatively meaningless AFC Challenge Cup third place game the only set back.
Kyrgyzstan are in the first pot courtesy of the four points they took off Jordan in the previous round. Palestine have a 1-1-1 record against the Central Asians as well. All three encounters took place at various stages of AFC Challenge Cup competition. Kyrgyzstan won the first encounter in Bangladesh in 2006 with Palestine avenging that loss and setting the table for 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification with a dramatic, hard fought 1-0 victory in Malé in 2014.
Some success has come against Bahrain as well (2W 0D 3L) and Palestine should fancy their chances- particularly at home. In the only competitive fixture between the two (2011 Pan Arab Games Semifinal) Bahrain won in large part due to a phantom goal.
Oman and Korea DPR have won their sole encounters with Palestine. Abdel Nasser Barakat’s charges would surely prefer the former to the latter especially after Ahli Al-Khaleel and Shabab Al-Dhahrieh took 4/6 points off of Fanja and Oruba, respectively in 2016 AFC Cup group play.
Jordan have a mental edge on Palestine but at some point they will need to conquer that demon. In nine encounters, Palestine have drawn four times and lost five. Four of the losses were blowouts by 4-1 and 5-1 score lines. The cumulative score of the most recent three encounters is 13-3.
Korea DPR are the team to avoid in this pot. The travel, possible inclement weather, and bitter relationship with Israel (which could see the game moved) are tough hurdles to overcome against a quality opponent.
Possible Pot 3 opponents could be tricky especially on the road.
Cumulative Record: (10W-4D-3L)
|Lebanon is the Pot 3 team to avoid.|
Two of the possible opponents will have no home field advantage (Afghanistan and Yemen). Palestine have a good record against both having won the last match ups 2-0 and 2-1, respectively. The lone loss was a 3-1 reverse in the 2010 WAFF Championship to Yemen. Despite the ongoing conflict, Yemen are an extremely gritty side who beat Philippines in qualifying and dispatched Maldives (4-0 aggregate) in the play off to get here.
Afghanistan (2W-1D-0L) play their home matches in Iran and receive respectable crowds whilst Yemen are subject to the ghostly confines of Qatari stadiums.
Yemen (1W-0D-1L) and Lebanon (1W-2D-1L) could refuse to travel to Palestine which could make things difficult. The AFC has not set a decisive precedent on this issue but that said neither federation has the clout of their Saudi counterpart.
Palestine has a 100% record against Chinese Taipei (3W-0D-0L) and should be gunning to get them again as they are by far the weakest team in this group. Maldives (1W-1D-0L) have avoided defeat at the hands of Palestine but it came with Jamal Mahmoud astutely rotating his team to ensure he had energized players ahead of the 2014 Challenge Cup knockout phase.
Myanmar (2W-0D-1L) won their only game against Palestine in August 2014. An undermanned, underprepared side sent by the FA caused Jamal Mahmoud to submit his resignation two weeks after a shock 4-1 reversal.
|Feeling Blue: Kuwait has had Palestine’s number|
Possible Pot 4 opponents represent a mix of the familiar (Malaysia, Nepal) and the unknown (Bhutan, Macao)
Cumulative Record: (6W-4D-3L)
With Kuwait excluded from the draw Palestine will breathe a sigh of relief. Al-Azraq have inflicted seven losses on Palestine. On only one occasion has Palestine picked up points. As a point of reference, Al-Fid’ai have a better record against Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
The other teams to have beaten Palestine are Singapore and Malaysia. Recent encounters show that Palestine can bank on an easy three points should they be grouped with the Malaysians again. Palestine notched a straightforward win against Cambodia in the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup (4-0).
Singapore is a bit of an unknown quantity. A previous golden generation did quite well against Palestine losing only once in four encounters. The consensus is that this current crop of Singaporean players isn’t as good as their predecessors but they did manage to knick a point off of Japan in World Cup qualifying. While Palestine should be confident of a result against the Lions- they are far and away the most difficult side in pot four.
Rounding out pot four are Nepal, Macau and Bhutan which should be easy pickings for Palestine. Nepal have never beaten Palestine- although the altitude and bumpy pitches of Kathmandu have assisted in a pair of scoreless draws. The challenge here would be managing travel to remote locations. Palestine’s logistical staff dropped the ball in getting the team to Timor Leste and should shoulder a great deal of blame for the two dropped points in Dilli.
Worst Case Scenario:
Korea DPR, Palestine, Lebanon, Singapore
Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Best Case Scenario:
Philippines, Palestine, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia
Korea DPR, Palestine, Myanmar, Bhutan
Jordan, Palestine, Yemen (play in Qatar), Malaysia