Preview: Palestine vs. Syria (2019 WAFF Championship)

What: 2019 WAFF Championship 
When: August 11th, 2019
Where: Karbala, Iraq
Venue: Karbala International Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 PM Jerusalem Time
TV: Iraq Sport, Kuwait Sport, Jordan Sport, Duhok Sport, Syria TV 
Streams: Streaming live on our site

Previous Encounters: 

Syria leads the series with 4 wins, 4 draws, and 1 Loss. The teams met at the 2000 and 2002 editions of the WAFF Championship with the Syrians prevailing 1-0 & 2-1, respectively.

17.11.2012 |  D 1:1 | Friendly 
20.11.2012 | W 2:1 | Friendly
06.01.2019 | D 0:0 | 2019 AFC Asian Cup

A Chance to win the Group

In spite of two straight match days of frustration that featured Palestine losing to Iraq at the death and playing out a glum 0-0 draw against Lebanon- Palestine can go top of the group with a win over Syria and some help from Yemen. 

While Palestine was on a bye, the rest of the group produced some surprising results. Yemen, who had one win to their name going back to May 2017 beat Lebanon and knocked them out of the competition. The result means Yemen could also win the group in the event Palestine fails to beat Syria  and they find a way to beat Iraq. 

Meanwhile, Syria who have lurched from crisis to crisis since the 2019 AFC Asian Cup steadied the ship with a 0-0 draw against hosts Iraq. 
As a result of these scores, Palestine can go top of the group with a win over Syria. A two goal win would clinch a place in the final- provided Yemen beat Iraq by a single goal. 

Record Watch 

The 2019 WAFF Championship has already witnessed Abdallah Jaber become the fifth national team player to join the 50-cap club. The left back joins Saeb Jendeya (58), Khader Yousef (64), Abdelatif Bahdari (67), and Ramzi Saleh (68) as the only players to reach a half century of caps. If Jaber continues his current pace of collecting caps he could become the only Palestinian player to achieve 100 caps in a national team shirt. 

There is also another milestone to watch out for with Abdelatif Bahdari within a single cap of Ramzi Saleh’s record number of appearances. The captain is expected to start against Syria and equal the record. 

Statistical confusion 

There has been a lot of misinformation going around in regards to caps. So much so, that the PFA provided the AFC with a list of totally bogus caps and goals ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. 

Ramzi Saleh has 68 caps (67 starts)- not 107 and we can prove this with a simple process of logic and deduction. 

Palestine will take to the pitch for the 169th time on Sunday since their readmission into FIFA in 1998. Ramzi Saleh played between 2000 and 2015 and for those that have been watching the national team for a while- you will remember that there was a period where Saleh did not play because of his ACL injury (c. 2011-2012) and another period where the national team was playing outside of FIFA dates and he was playing for Al-Ahly (c. 2009). 

In any case, let’s go with the assumption that he played every single game during that 15 year period- just to make a point. Ramzi Saleh made his debut on April 6th, 2000 against Kazakhstan as a substitute for Loay Al-Husni. That was game number 12 in the modern history of the national team. So let’s eliminate the 11 games he didn’t play. His final game was against Jordan on January 16th, 2015. This was game 125 for the national team. 

So all in all his career spanned 114 games and the player and FA will have you believe he played in all but seven of those games. Except this cannot be true because Abdullah Saidawi (13 caps), Leo Zamora (6 caps), Ayad Dwaima (3 caps), and Mohammed Shbair (16 caps) who all played during that time period all made their debuts during the time of Ramzi Saleh’s active career. 

So if we take the 114 games he could have conceivably played in a subtract the caps accrued by others we can get a more accurate number. 114 – 38 = 76 caps with the a discrepancy of eight caps- games that were played by Toufic Ali who became the #1 keeper after Ramzi Saleh retired. 

Go for the jugular 

Syria might have secured a 0-0 draw against Iraq in the penultimate match day but that does not mean they are any closer to solving their problems. This is still a national team in crisis and playing out a scoreless draw against an Iraqi side that wasted the chances it created does not change that. 

Moreover, Syria’s bye came on the first match day and since then they have played three games in seven days and will be playing their fourth game in the space of ten days when they square off against Palestine. 

In order for this tournament to be considered a success, Palestine has to beat Syria. Al-Fida’i were a little unlucky to lose against Iraq in a game where they exhibited discipline and tactical awareness for large portions of the game. That said, the scoreless draw against Lebanon was the result of employing three midfielders with no attacking nous. 

It might necessitate a change in personnel or a different formation but Noureddine Ould Ali has to find a way to win, and win convincingly. 

FP’s preferred Starting XI: Hamadi, Farawi, Hamed Mayor, Bahdari, Jaber; Yameen, Darweesh; Batran, Qitawi, Abu Warda; Dabbagh.

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