Palestine’s rescheduled World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia is set to be the country’s first taste of competitive action since November 2019. In the year and a half since Al-Fida’i took to the field in Tashkent, a lot has changed- with many Palestinians moving clubs and chasing success abroad.
A final squad list has yet to be released by the Palestine Football Association but some names have been confirmed to be in the squad by the FA’s outlet, the Palestine Youth and Sport Channel.
The following names have been confirmed as call-ups: Mohammed Saleh (Al-Masry, Egypt), Yaser Hamed (Al-Busaiteen, Bahrain), Mahmoud Wadi (Pyramids FC, Egypt), Mohammed Rashid (Al-Jeel, Saudi Arabia), Saleh Chihadeh (FC Thun, Switzerland) and Oday Dabbagh (Al-Arabi, Kuwait).
Football Palestine has also learned that there have been call-ups for Nazmi Albadawi (North Carolina FC, USA), Amr Kaddoura (Landskrona BoIS, Sweden), and Ahmed Awad (Ostersunds FK, Sweden).
Since the announcement, Mahmoud Wadi has suffered a rib injury which is expected to prevent him from making the trip to Riyadh.
It remains to be seen if any additional names will be added to the eight healthy players already called up. If this is the final list of Palestinians Abroad, then the obvious snubs given their current form and contributions are Michel Termanini and Mahmoud Eid who have provided a big boost since joining their clubs in Oman and Qatar, respectively.
Although chances were handed to Mohammed Darwish (Trepca 89, Kosovo), Daoud Iraqi (TeBe Berlin, Germany), and Yousef Emghames (HSC Hannover, Germany) in the current cycle they have not yet displaced the players ahead of them in the pecking order.
Football Palestine can confirm that the PFA is still looking at several Palestine eligible players in Europe and South America but it seems unlikely that these players will be called up during World Cup qualifying given the paperwork entailed.
Which local players make the cut?
Palestine’s friendly vs. Kuwait in January gave opportunities to a slew of WBPL players to state their case as national team contributors. There are question marks as to whether or not two stalwarts of the national team will even be called in (left back Abdallah Jaber and goalkeeper Rami Hamadi) which is set to create uncertainty as to what the final squad and the Starting XI could look like.
In goal, it should be straightforward. If Rami is available he plays. If not, then Amr Kaddoura should be given the opportunity to stake his claim to the #1 Shirt. Toufic Ali is the default third choice goalkeeper as no other WBPL goalkeeper has shown that he is cut out for international football.
That said certain factors can be deduced from the eight players that were called up. With Saleh and Hamed in the fold there will most likely be a spot for Abu Mayala but the coaching staff could elect not to carry four defenders on this trip. That fourth centreback spot is a bit of an open competition at the moment. Musa Saleem did not cover himself in glory on his last outing vs. Kuwait so expect there to be a revolving door at that position for several months to come but if Michel Termanini keeps racking up the minutes in Oman he should have the inside track.
Right back is a position of abundance for Palestine with new captain Musab Al-Battat and Musa Farawi equally capable of starting. The left back position is more of a question mark with Abdallah Jaber- and his most experienced alternate- Fadi Salbees ostensibly unavailable. Ahmed Qatmish by default becomes the best available WBPL option and as a result of the manufactured crisis, the best option could be calling back 34 year old Jaka Ihbeisheh.
Palestine has no shortage in the center of the pitch and the addition of Mohammed Rashid further boosts the strength of that position. I would fully expect his presence to be complemented by the veteran Mohammed Darweesh alongside Shabab Al-Khaleel duo Odai Kharoub and Moody Yameen both of whom have been excellent this season.
Out on the wings, Tamer Seyam and Oday Dabbagh will most certainly start against Saudi Arabia. Mahmoud Abu Warda could be an option off the bench and if a fourth winger is selected it could be Islam Batran.
Nazmi Albadawi and Ahmed Awad are the #10s in the group but it is hard to imagine Sameh Maraaba getting dropped after he scored the winner against Kuwait in January.
Make no mistake, Mahmoud Wadi’s absence from this squad will be a big blow but he is not irreplaceable. Saleh Chihadeh terrorized Saudi Arabia’s defence in October 2019- doing everything but score in a 0-0 draw that should have been a victory for Al-Fida’i. The Safuriyeh native has been in great form for FC Thun in the Challenge League and should get the start again.
The calculus then should focus on potential Plan Bs. The versatile Ahmed Awad could be one of those options. Shehab Qombor, who was great vs. Kuwait, is the only player who could reliably guarantee himself a spot on the roster.
Qombor can also point to the fact that he is the league’s leading scorer and the only player to have hit double digit goals.
The two players are the most in-form at the moment were the result of winter transfers from the Israeli Leagues. Mohammed Fode has seven goals- all from open play- in seven appearances for Shabab Al-Dhahrieh. Fode is a little long in the tooth- he’s 32- but it is hard to argue with his form at the moment and he could be in line for a much awaited debut after being part of several squads under Abdel Nasser Barakat.
Then there’s Reebal Dahamshe, the 18 year-old has given Hilal Al-Quds a reliable goal scoring threat having chipped in with 4 goals in eight games.
Logic dictates that the aforementioned players could find themselves on a plane to Riyadh in a week’s time. That said, logic has been defied repeatedly- which is why we often see Khaled Salem appear for the national team despite his proven ineffectiveness time and again.
What will the final squad look like?
The other factor in projecting Palestine’s squad is how many players will make the trip for a single game. When Palestine played Kuwait last month, the final squad ended up being only 21 players. That said, there’s every chance that the squad could be larger this time around.
Coronavirus restrictions probably favor the strategy of bringing more players just in case testing results in a handful of positives. The issue of whether or not Rami Hamadi and Abdallah Jaber will be called up is another x factor that could see some significant divergence from our projections.
Green = Confirmed Call Up | Blue= Projected Call Up | Red= Injured | *PFA policy may prevent call up