Preview: Palestine vs. Singapore (2022 World Cup qualifier)

  • What: 2022 FIFA World Cup/2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying
  • When: Thursday, June 3rd 2021
  • Where: Riyadh Saudi Arabia 
  • Kickoff: 9 PM Jerusalem
  • Streams: Streamed lived on Football Palestine
  • 10.09.2019 // Singapore 2:1 Palestine (2022 WCQ)
  • 08.10.2007 // Palestine 0:4 Singapore (2010 WCQ)
  • 01.03.2006 // Palestine 1:0 Singapore (2006 WCQ)
  • 23.10.2003 // Singapore 0:0 Palestine (2004 ACQ)
  • 19.10.2003 // Singapore 2:0 Palestine (2004 ACQ)

When Asian World Cup qualifying kicked off nearly two years ago it was hard to imagine a scenario like this one. Singapore finished their first qualifier under Tatsuma Yoshida frustrated at their ability to translate their dominance at th Kallang Stadium into goals. 8,000 km away in Jerusalem, Palestine kicked off qualifying with an impressive 2-0 win over Group D favorites Uzbekistan. 

If anything can be said for Group D, it has been anything but predictable. Five days later, Singapore beat Palestine 2-1 at the Jalan Besar, using that stadium’s artificial surface to their advantage and exercising the sort of scoring efficiency that had eluded them against Yemen. All was not lost for Palestine as Yemen held Saudi Arabia to a shock 2-2 draw in the other fixture of Match Day 2. Uzbekistan who had bye also got in on the action by firing their manager, Hector Cúper. 

That fateful day in September 2019 would be the beginning of the end for Palestine. They played brilliantly against Saudi Arabia in October but the lack of a finishing touch meant they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw. Disaster struck in November when they lost to Yemen 1-0 and since then the team has been absolutely rudderless. A 2-0 loss in Uzbekistan further dented the hopes of qualifying for Round 3 and a match against Saudi Arabia, which was never meant to be played in March, all but extinguished them. 

Palestine now have three games- two World Cup qualifiers and an Arab Cup qualifier- that will set the tone for the national team for the next 24 months and they’ll do this with an interim manager a Goalkeeper Coach with no Continental Pro License to his name.

What does Palestine have left to play for now? 

Mathematically speaking, Palestine could still qualify as one of the best runners up. That would require several other results in World Cup qualifying- both in Group D and other groups- to go their way. The dream is over. 

That said, Palestine will be keen to avoid their worst ever performance in World Cup qualifying (bar their 2010 withdrawal) and two wins from two would do just that. Furthermore, finishing third (or possibly fourth) in the group would help Palestine avoid a playoff just to get into the Asian Cup qualifying tournament. 

Any positive momentum would help put the team in the right headspace ahead of a crucial Arab Cup qualifier against Comoros on June 24th. 

Palestine may not be able to make it to Qatar in 2022 but being there in 2021, in a FIFA sanctioned tournament against their Arab brethren means a lot to the players.

Singapore controls its own destiny 

The picture has been rosier for Singapore who had their sights firmly set on qualifying for the Asian Cup in China in 2023. As it stands, they seem on course to return to their first continental dance since hosting the tournament in 1984. Bar a 3-0 away loss to Saudi Arabia The Lions have been competitive in every match and have managed to score in all of their qualifying matches. 

The Singaporeans will not have the benefit of playing Saudi Arabia at home but playing on neutral ground- as opposed to hostile territory- for two out of the three final matches can be seen as something of a net positive. 

Funnily enough it is Singapore, and not Palestine, who control their own destiny. A simple win against Al-Fida’i will probably be enough to clinch third place in the group and direct passage to the Asian Cup qualifying tournament. Should they pull off surprises in Riyadh next month and notch three wins they’ll clinch second place and most likely qualify for the next stage of World Cup qualifying. For his part, Singapore Manager Tatsuma Yoshida has set a target of four points from the final three qualifiers

Singapore will have to play their final three World Cup qualifiers without their best player. Norway-based Ikhsan Fandi who has notched three goals in qualifying thus far has been ruled out with injury. The injury leaves Singapore with only two other internationally based players in the Singapore squad- Irfan Fandi who plays for Pathum United in Thailand and Malaysia based Anumathan Kumar. Singapore’s captain Hariss Harun has also withdrawn from the squad for personal reasons

Singapore played Afghanistan in a friendly over the weekend. The closed door encounter ended in a 1-1 draw- with Afghanistan grabbing a late equalizer following Garbiel Quak’s 41st minute opener. 

While Palestine’s domestic players have completed two full league seasons in spite of the Pandemic, Singapore’s contingent have not been as fortunate. Severe COVID-19 restrictions meant the 2020 season was abandoned with only 14/21 match days played. Football returned this year but Singapore could not fulfill its obligation to host AFC Cup matches. On top of that, the Singaporean national team did not play a single match since last lining up for World Cup qualification in November 2019. On the face of it Singapore’s players should be considerably rustier and the shaky form of their goalkeeper Hassan Sunny will most likely see him replaced by Izwan Mahbud who had not played since November 22, 2020 but started against Afghanistan on Saturday. 

Dabboub continues tradition of ignoring Palestinians Abroad 

For Palestine’s part their squad has once again ignored many Palestinian plying their trade abroad in favor of untested WBPL players. Nazmi Albadawi misses the squad through injury but his natural replacement Ahmed Awad has no gone three years since last playing for Al-Fida’i this despite the fact that he has carved out a nice role as a supersub for Ostersunds FK- notching a goal and assist in two appearances in the Allsvenskan. Saleh Chihahdeh who has scored 11 goals in Swiss second tier for FC Thun also misses out. 

The criminal decision to ban Abdallah Jaber from the national team continues. This despite the fact that his only crime was that he had the temerity to ask to be paid wages owed to him by his club

A desperate call has been made to Abdelatif Bahdari who has come out of retirement for the second time.

There are also no call ups for Amr Kaddoura (Landskronna/Sweden), Michel Termanini (Al-Nasr/Oman), Saado Abdel Salam (Ermis/Cyrpus), Yashir Islame (Rangers de Talca/Chile), and Fady Zidan (Torpedo Kutsai/Georgia),

For a full squad analysis, click here.