Palestine’s first squad announcement ahead of 2022 World Cup qualifiers included more than a few surprises. Only seven players ply their trade abroad and the apparent end of the Khaled Salem experiment proved to be a false alarm (again). Also included in the squad are several lesser known players like Ahmed Abu Khadijah, Haitham Khairallah, Waleed Qombor, Musa Saleem, and Ahmed Zreiqi (three combined caps). Below is a list of ten players who should have been given a call up ahead of qualifiers against Uzbekistan and Singapore.
1. Amr Kaddoura
Palestine are in safe hands with current number one Rami Hamadi but should he go down the team would be in full blown crisis. The last time Hamadi was rested Toufic Ali failed to make a single save in a 4-3 win over Syria that highlighted the veteran’s shortcomings.
Kaddoura was the recipient of a lot of unfounded criticism when he was included in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup squad from people who have never seen him play. Landskronna finished in last place in the Superettan and were relegated in large part due to their porous defence. Kaddoura was a standout performer in a poor team and stuck with the team in the third tier of Swedish football. Landskronna are still in the hunt for a return to the Superettan due to the fantastic season Amr Kaddoura has put in.
In 17 starts, the shot stopper has kept 6 clean sheets and has only allowed his net to be breached 14 times- a record low in the division. He even helped Landskronna salvage a draw by scoring a goal deep into injury time.
92:a minuten. 2-1 till @ifkvmo.
Då får @landskronabois en hörna, målvakten Amr Kaddoura når högst och fixar en poäng till gästerna. Härliga @Ettanfotboll! pic.twitter.com/6pte3Wgr5J
— FotbollDirekt.se (@FotbollDirekt) May 19, 2019
Why faith is being kept in Toufic Ali despite repeated poor performances is a mystery. In nine appearances over the last three years as he has only kept one clean sheet (against lowly Nepal).
2. Ahmed Awad
The knock against Ahmed Awad is that he does not impress in training sessions. That said, he has provided a spark off the bench in all four substitute appearances with the national team- despite the fact he was played out of position on the wing on all four occasions.
Awad has done more than enough since his last appearance to merit a recall to the national team. His recent form (four goals in three games) is especially positive and should have resulted in his inclusion in the squad ahead of the likes of Sameh Maraaba who spurned chance after chance in a friendly against Kyrgyzstan in June.
3. Mahmoud Eid
The third Swedish based player on the list. A multidimensional player, Eid resurrected his Allsvenskan career this season with Kalmar- twice featuring in the Team of the Week and showing off his ability to play on the inside of a five man midfield.
Often played out of position as a striker, Eid is more at home on the right wing- a fact that has been oft overlooked by the national team’s coaching staff. His ability to combine size, power, and speed should make him an asset but for whatever reason he finds himself overlooked in favour of Khaled Salem.
With Palestine enjoying an embarrassment of riches out on the wing it would an another matter altogether if the player was excluded in favour of other players based abroad. The fact that Khaled Salem, a player who has repeatedly failed at international level, is effectively in his place showcases the warped decision making of the coaching staff.
4. Jaka Ihbeisheh
The consummate professional, Ihbeisheh was unlucky to not see action at the last AFC Asian Cup. His exclusion might be the result of the coaching staff putting faith in younger players but his experience and the positive vibe he brings to the team could still be used. His ability to play multiple positions means he could be an asset as fullback on either flank or as a winger.
At 33, Ihbeisheh is experiencing a second spring in his career- last season he led NK Bravo back to the Prva Liga and has gone on to play every single minute of the team’s seven games in the Slovenian top flight.
5. Yashir Islame
In all fairness, Islame did not have the best of seasons for PKNP- suffering relegation with the Malaysian side. That said, one of the risks of playing in a relatively poor but well paying league is that forwards might struggle to get service. For Islame, his fantastic half season with Curicó Unido in Chile- where he dovetailed excellently with his midfield and forward partner was followed up the exact opposite type of team. PKNP were bereft of ideas for the majority of their season and when they did score it was the Santiago born forward creating or scoring chances.
Given the success he has had with the national team, his exclusion is particularly harsh. Yashir Islame has tallied seven times in 15 starts (18 total appearances) and does offer something different to Chihadeh and Wadi- the other established forwards in the squad. Islame is perhaps the victim of Ould Ali’s negative tactics which have starved him of the ability to combine with his teammates in the attacking third.
Ould Ali has shown an inability to use the forward properly and has played him out of position on the wing and as a #10 to disastrous effect.
It’s worth considering that since Ould Ali took charge in May 2018, Islame has only scored once from open play. His goalscoring record before the Algerian ascended to the helm was five goals in eight games- he has only notched two in 10 games since.
6. Yousef Emghames
Perhaps unlucky to play in a position where Palestine has an abundance of choices. Currently unattached following a spell with Hannover 96 II the midfielder could and should have been included as part of the WAFF 2019 squad and given a chance to work his way into the first team.
7. Mohammed Darwish
In a very similar position to his Olympic squad teammate, Yousef Emghames, Palestine has no shortage of options on the wing. The left footed winger is ostensibly behind Tamer Seyam and Oday Dabbagh on the depth chart and is currently playing in the fourth division of German football with Hannoverscher.
8. Michel Termanini
A player with potential that needs to be nurtured. Termanini has had quite the past 18 months- he left the Swedish second tier to sign with Hilal Al-Quds, flopped, and then returned to Sweden.
He must have done something right is Torns IF in the Swedish third tier because he has just been signed by Talea Al-Geish, an Egyptian Premier League side. With a dearth of options and the ongoing absence of Mohammed Saleh- Termanini should be at least included in the camps where he could learn how to refine his skills from a stalwart like Abdelatif Bahdari.
9. Saado Abdel Salam
The other centre back who anchored the Olympic Team’s success in 2018 has been included in some senior squads but has been oft overlooked. His lack of playing time for Platanias in the Greek second tier is not doing his development any favours and he should perhaps consider a move- any move- that would guarantee him playing time.
10. Fabian Ahumada
Not a starter for Palestino but a very effective squad member that has made his presence felt in several games. The 23 year old has registered two goals and two assists in league play across 15 appearances this season. He also scored a fantastic goal in Copa Libertadores play against Alianza Lima. His nationality switch paperwork has been filed and could bring a different element to the attack should he called up.
Given the fact that two members of Palestine’s 2019 Asian Cup squad ply their trade for the two worst sides in Chile’s third division, Ahumada’s status as a substitute for a first division side makes him more than worthy to wear the shirt.