Rapid Reaction: Palestine 2:0 Uzbekistan (2022 World Cup Qualifier)

Palestine Starting XI: Rami Hamadi, Musab Al-Battat, Abdelatif Bahdari, Yaser Hamed Mayor, Abdallah Jaber; Mohammed Darweesh, Mohammed Rashid; Oday Dabbagh (Islam Batran), Nazmi Albadawi, Tamer Seyam; Mahmoud Wadi (Saleh Chiahdeh)

Uzbekistan Starting XI: Suyunov, Hashimov, Krimets, Ismoliov, Safiyev; Ahmedov, Hamrobekov, Alibaev (Shaakhmedov); Masharipov (Abdukholiov), Raziyev (Khamdamov), Shomurodov 

Yellow Cards: Mahmoud Wadi 19′, Mohammed Darweesh 64′ // Igor Krimets 30′ 

Goals: Oday Dabbagh 60′ // Islam Batran 85′ 

Recap: After a bright start, Palestine cooled and Uzbekistan slowly came into the game. A dull end to the first half was quickly forgotten about after Palestine found a way to breach the Uzbek defences on the hour mark. This was a game that showcased the strength of the Palestinian team- pure grit and resilience. They might not have the best resources around them but this team has talent to go along with determination.

It speaks of the maturity of the Palestinian team that they were able to find a breakthrough in a tight game when things did not go their way. Uzbekistan put them under pressure in the first half but the team found ways to bend without breaking. They countered ineffectively for the first 45 minutes but kept faith.

When a shot squeezed through Rami Hamadi was up to the task. His kick save just after the end of the first half ensured the match stayed scoreless and was the preface to Palestine’s ascendancy in the game.

The game was turned on its head by Oday Dabbagh in the 60th minute as he cut in from the right flank and slotted home the opener. The youngest player on the pitch today might get all the headlines but credit has to be given to Nazmi Albadawi who set up the play with a delightful ball- turning an innocuous situation into a dangerous one.

Dabbagh’s fourth international goal sent the Palestinian touchline into a state of euphoria. The staff and the players were all familiar with Hector Cúper having followed him while he was at the helm of Egypt’s national side. All of a sudden there was a sense of belief- Cúper’s Egypt could never fight back from the first goal. His Uzbekistan was similarly vulnerable to conceding first and this gave Palestine a second wind one that was on full display with Abdelatif Bahdari flinging himself at every cross and body that dared breach Palestine’s area.

Uzbekistan simply had no answers, the changes Cúper made had very little effect on the team and when they poured forward Palestine were able to exploit the space left in behind them. Islam Batran has always been effective off the bench and he wasted no time in showing off his ability. Tamer Seyam raced down the right flank and Batran raced down the left on a swift counter. Seyam’s cross found Batran who hurled his body at the ball heading it into the back of the net.

At 2-0 Palestine were cruising. Saleh Chiahdeh nearly made it 3-0 moments later only to see his chip fall wide of the post.

Rami Hamadi took license to show off towards the end of the game coming out to head a ball and then retreating to save an Uzbek effort.

In the end, Palestine saw out the game as deserved winners. The victory their first real signature win since this generation of players was put together in the aftermath of the 2015 Asian Cup. It is one that will make the rest of the continent stand up and notice.

Extended Highlights

What I liked: The togetherness and unity in the squad. This was a real team effort one that came as a result of singular focus and camaraderie. They believed in themselves when fans were cynical and the FA disinterested.

Credit to the coaching staff for studying the opponent and implementing a plan that neutralized what was termed a fearsome attack while also finding ways to create dangerous attacking opportunities.

What I didn’t like: Match organization. The PFA should be sacked on the back of this performance (FIFA gave them money to set up an independent channel instead it acts as a tool to glorify Rajoub and then fails to actually DO ITS JOB). Palestine Sports TV didn’t resort to their usual shenanigans of stealing broadcasts from other channels and passing them off as their own. This time they decided to broadcast it themselves- only to completely fail leaving many fans in the dark. Luckily, the Qatari channel Al-Kass was there to fill the void.

Secondly, the stadium not being full is inexcusable. It has a capacity of 10,000 and while a 5 PM kickoff on a weekday is less than ideal it isn’t absurd to expect a full stadium. We fought 70 years to get a team, In that time a group of Poles and Russians stole our name and passed themselves off as Palestine as FIFA looked the other direction. Our attempts to join the global football family were rebuffed in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Now that we have it we should cherish it- it’s perhaps the only good thing to come out of the Oslo Accords. 

Finally, the PFA needs to actually spend money on advertising their product and they need to so more than just a week in advance. When they paid an agency to advertise the UAE match four years ago- the atmosphere was the talk of the continent.

Man of the Match: It could go to any of the 14 players who played today. A fantastic performance by all. I would single out Nazmi Albadawi not only for assisting the opener but his “secondary assist” on the second goal. Albadawi took a quick free kick after Chihadeh was fouled and set Tamer Seyam on his run. In the final minutes the NCFC captain set Chihadeh through on goal and nearly scored scored with an effort that whizzed just past the post.

Record Breaker: Congratulations to Abdelatif Bahdari for setting a new record. Most international appearances- 69- by a national team player. He is also the oldest player to have ever played and the oldest player to have scored for Palestine.

Win #50: Palestine registered their 50th win in 171 official FIFA and AFC competitions on the 5th day of the week (Thursday/Al-Khamis) on the 5th of September after kicking off at 5:00 PM. Poetic.

What’s Next: The team travels to Jordan tomorrow and will arrive to Singapore on Saturday. Palestine face Singapore on Tuesday, September 10th at 19:45 local time (14:45 Jerusalem). 

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