Preview: Palestine vs. Comoros (FIFA Arab Cup qualifier)

  • What: 2021 FIFA Arab Cup playoff
  • Where: Jassem bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar
  • When: Thursday, June 24th, 2021
  • Kickoff: 8 PM Jerusalem Time
  • Stream/TV: Streaming on FootballPalestine.com & FIFA’s YouTube Channel | beIN Sports HD (MENA)

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Palestine will depart their camp in Saudi Arabia and head to the Qatari capital of Doha later today. It has been a successful and eventful three weeks for Al-Fida’i; a 4-0 win over Singapore and a 3-0 win over Yemen has completely transformed the mood in the camp. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, those wins were all for naught as their form under former manager Noureddine Ould Ali had all but mathematically eliminated their chances at progression to Round Three of World Cup qualification.

To rub salt in the wounds results elsewhere meant that had Palestine beaten Singapore (2-1) and Yemen (1-0) in their first encounters they would have finished second in Group D and qualified as one of the best runners up.

Thursday’s FIFA Arab Cup qualifier against Comoros represent a chance for this generation of players to grace a global stage. The core of this team has been together since 2015: Rami Hamadi, Mohammed Darweesh, Musab Al-Battat, Abdallah Jaber and Tamer Seyam had always earmarked the Arab World’s first World Cup as their time to shine. A trip to Qatar in 17 months time is no longer in the balance but one in five months represents something of a nice consolation prize.

The big question surrounding this match is whether or not we will we see a different approach from Makram Dabboub. The interim manager was content to boss proceedings against Yemen and Singapore by deploying a high line and pressing the opposition. Those matches, however, were relatively low stakes affairs with Palestine only playing for pride.

The Tunisian might choose to be more conservative against a side that is bit of a mystery, especially with a place in a prestigious tournament on the line and a chance to avenge recent results against Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Comoros to field experimental side

The Coelacanthes made history earlier this year by qualifying for their first ever African Cup of Nations Tournament. They did so by finishing second in a group that featured Egypt, Kenya, and Togo. The core of that squad is made up of exclusively of players playing in France, Belgium, England, the Netherlands, and Serbia. In fact not a single player plying his trade in the local league was called up for Comoros in the past 12 months en route to AFCON qualification glory.

This time around Comoros has a new melange of players in a 21-man squad. There are six players who have been called up for the first time they are: Akim Djaha (FC Martigues/FRANCE), El-Omar Fardi (Olympique de Marseille/FRANCE), Zaidou Soilihi (Marignane Gignac/FRANCE), Abdourahim Moina Afia (US Concarneau/FRANCE), Loutfi Daoudou (AS Furiani-Agliani/FRANCE), Djoumoi Moussa ( AS Saint-Priest/FRANCE) and Chamoune Mohamed Anoir (US Zilimadjou).

Seven players ply their trade in Comoros while only two players who were part of the first team set up are included in this squad: third choice goalkeeper Moyadh Ousenni, who plays in the French fourth tier and forward Ibroihim Youssouf who plays in Mauritania and is the only player with international pedigree having notched 6 goals in 18 appearances.

Mini Crisis affecting Comoros

The talk surrounding the Comoros national football team has not been positive over the past month has been far from positive. A disagreement between the team and the federation led to the cancellation of two friendlies against Kosovo and Gambia which were designed to be preparation for Palestine. The squad is not only a hodgepodge of inexperienced players but also one with a different coach. The Moroccan assistant, Younes Zerdouk, will take the place of manager Amir Abdou presumably as an act of protest over unpaid bonuses.

Comoros will travel to Doha on Monday and only have two days to train together before the crucial playoff against Palestine.

Arab Cup Playoffs: Competitive and Entertaining

Palestine should not rest on their laurels despite the problems facing Comoros. Over the past two nights neither Sudan nor Oman were given an easy game by underdogs Libya and Somalia. The performance of the latter showcases how much more talent Africa has in comparison to Asia. Oman prevailed 2-1 but were sweating it out for large portions of the second half against a team ranked 117 places below them in the FIFA Ranking.

The atmosphere in Qatar has been great too as expatriate communities have descended on the stadia to support their national teams in games that have lived up to the hype (not that there was much to begin with).

Stats, Records, & More

Rami Hamadi- Palestine’s newly crowned leader in clean sheets kept- will look to keep three clean sheets in three consecutive games for the third time in his career. Further up the pitch, Oday Dabbagh is creating history of his own, having just surpassed 100 career goals. Dabbagh will become only the fourth Palestinian player to score in three straight games with a goal vs. Comoros, joining Ahmed Maher Wridat (2014), Fahed Attal (2006), and Ziyad Al-Kord (2002).

Palestine has historically enjoyed a good deal of success at Pan Arab Competition. At the Pan Arab Games, Al-Fida’i have thrice reached the semifinal (1965, 1999, 2011) and have finished as high as fifth in the Arab Cup back in 1966. For a country that did not have official status within FIFA for many of its participation it is an indication of a special relationship with the competitions.

The fixture against Comoros is something of an exotic one as Palestine rarely faces teams outside of the Asian continent. That said, they can bank on a good record against African sides.

Palestine has faced African opposition on 10 occasions and has a record of 3W-5D-2L (13 GF 11 GA) their two losses came in a friendly against Tanzania in 2011 (1-0) and Morocco in 2002 (3-1 not recorded in FIFA’s register). They have emerged victorious against Burundi, Seychelles, and Sudan. The rest of their results are a pair of draws against Libya (at the 1999 and 2011 Pan Arab Games) and friendly draws against Sudan, Mauritania, and a draw against the former at the 2002 Arab Cup.