Preview: Palestine v. Bahrain (Friendly)

Game Information

What: International FIFA Friendly 
When: June 6th, 2017
Where: Riffa National Stadium, Bahrain    
Kickoff: TBD
Streams/TV: Link 1 // Link 2

Previous Encounters: 
September 2nd, 2004 // L 0-1
February 16th, 2004 // W 2-0 
December 6th, 2011 // W 1-0 
December 20th, 2011 // L 1-3
November 29th, 2012 // L 2-0

Full preview & squad after the jump… 

The Palestinian Balotelli returns 

Salem (third from right) back en route to Bahrain

Khaled Salem could receive his first cap since January 2015. His last game saw him deployed as a centerback against Iraq despite spending the majority of his career as a forward.

Salem has a ton of talent but in 16 caps (5 starts) he has failed to find that back of the net. He has had his moments- like Olympic qualifying in 2011 against the likes of Thailand and Bahrain where he was involved in all of Palestine’s goals interspersed by sensational brace against an Italian national team made up of Lega Pro players.

The Tulkarem native’s best moment for Palestine have come in unofficial encounters- a hat trick vs. Northern Mariana Islands in Challenge Cup qualifying and a Golazo against Malaysia in a friendly later that month.

Can Palestine continue upward trajectory? 

Palestine’s 2017 has been successful thus far. Two wins, four goals, and zero conceded. The national team have lost just once in the past two years and a pair of wins this month could catapult the team into the Top 100 of the FIFA Ranking and within striking distance of the Top 10 spots in Asia. 

Surprise Omissions

Ever since the start of their training camp in Morocco last month there has been precious little information in regards to the national team. For over three weeks there was no information as to who was participating in camp and who was due to participate. Many players themselves were only notified in the last 24 hours as to their status for this game.
The most surprising exclusions are that of Mahmoud Eid and Ahmed Awad. The former is the only Palestinian playing at the top tier of a European league (and he has played a ton of minutes for Kalmar this season). While the latter has been consistent over the past three years for Dalkurd FF and has them on the brink of promotion to the Allsvenskan.
Imad Zatara’s continued exclusion is also unfortunate given his fantastic year for Qatari side Mesaimeer.
Wunderkind Oday Dabagh has been made to wait for his senior debut- bowing out of the squad to focus on his university entrance exams.
Carlos Salom has missed a fourth straight call-up since debuting in September of 2016 and one wonders if he will ever suit up for Al-Fida’i again.

Contrary to preliminary reports, Ahmad Abu Nahyeh and Ashraf Nu’man have not travelled to Bahrain and their status for the Oman match is unknown. While Alaa Abu Saleh’s injury leaves Palestine a little thin at the centerback position.


Bahrain Preparations 

In the last decade, Bahrain was known as a side that could punch well above its weight and although they missed out on successive trips to the World Cup Finals they played in many signature games from 2000-2010.

Bahrain’s first foray into the Asian big time was during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. Unexpected participants at the final group stage, they upset Iran on the final day of qualifying to doom Team Melli to the intercontinental playoff and send Saudi Arabia to the World Cup.

Al Ahmar was sensational three years later at the 2004 World Cup navigating a path to the semifinals by snatching result after result at the last minute. Until the succumb to a late comeback by eventual champions Japan in Shandong.

Bahrain were denied a spot in the 2006 World Cup by Trinidad and Tobago. 

In the 2010 edition, they advanced to the intercontinental playoff in one of the craziest finishes in Asian Football- securing a result on Saudi soil on the last kick of the game after conceding what seemed to be like a winner to the Saudis mere seconds earlier. 

A missed penalty and a host of missed of opportunities against New Zealand denied Bahrain once again. 

It’s been downhill for the Bahrainis since then. Failure to qualify for the final stage of World Cup qualifying in 2014 should have brought wholesale changes. Iraqi tactician Adnan Hamed was brought in, but quickly let go. A group stage exit during Australia 2015 led the FA to splash the cash for the services of former Argentina manager Sergio Batista in an attempt to revive fortunes ahead of 2018 World Cup qualifying. 

Bahrain’s attempt to qualify was absolutely shambolic. An opening loss to Philippines in Manilla was followed up a home loss to Korea DPR. Bahrain bottomed out with a 0-4 thumping at home at the hands of Uzbekistan- their third loss in the opening four games- effectively ending any hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. 

Things have been shaky since and a goalless draw against Singapore to open up qualifying has left Bahrain adrift of pace-setters Turkmenistan whom they play next in Ashgabat. 

Bahrain’s has entrusted yet another Czech- former Yemen manager Miroslav Soukup- with the task of getting Al-Ahmar to UAE 2019. Soukoup is winless in his last five matches (0W,  4D, 1L) with only three goals scored. Bahrain have failed to score in four of the eight games with Soukup in charge and has yet to find a complement (or replacement) to Ismail Abdulatif- Bahrain’s alltime leading goal scorer. 

Rami Hammadi (Thaqafi Tulkarem), Toufic Ali, Ghanem Mahajneh (both Shabab Al-Khaleel)

Abdelatif Bahdari (unattached), Mohammed Saleh, Abdallah Jaber (both Ahli Al-Khaleel), Haitham Dheeb (Shabab Al-Khaleel), Mus’ab Battat (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh), Tamer Salah, Fadi Salbees (both Hilal Al-Quds), Alexis Norambuena (unattached)


Mohammed Darwish, Tamer Seyam (both Hilal Al-Quds), Jonathan Cantillana, Shadi Shaban (both Ahli Al-Khaleel), Mahmoud Abu Wardeh (Balata), Mohammed Yameen, Sameh Maraba (both Thaqafi Tulkarem), Ahmed Maher (Wehdat/Jordan), Jaka Ihbeisheh (Al-Shammal/Qatar), Pablo Tamburrinni (unattached), Islam Batran (Wadi Degla/Egypt)


Yashir Pinto Islame (Perak FA/Malaysia), Matías Jadue (PKNS FC/Malaysia), Khaled Salem (Hilal Al-Quds)

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