Preview: Palestine vs. Yemen (2022 World Cup Qualifier)

  • What: 2022 FIFA World Cup/2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying
  • When: Tuesday, June 15th 2021
  • Where: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 
  • Kickoff: 9 PM Jerusalem
  • Streams: Streamed lived on Football Palestine

Previous Encounters:

Yemen look to defy the odds once more

Meetings between Yemen and Palestine have always been tight affairs. In fact, barring their first meeting in 2010, all matches have been decided by the odd goal. A decade ago Palestine and Yemen were regarded as the worst of West Asia but it look less than a decade to dispel that notion. Palestine qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup, through arguably a less forgiving route, ahead of more established sides Lebanon and Syria. Four years on, Yemen navigated an arduous path of 18 qualifiers to punch their ticket to UAE 2019.

The most remarkable thing about Yemen is how resilient they are. The team is producing some of its best results despite the country being besieged and bombarded in a brutal war with no end in sight. The appearance at the 2019 Asian Cup Finals might have not produced noteworthy performances but it has served to change the culture around the team.

Yemen were very good in 2019 following their appearance at the continental showpiece only for the global pandemic to stall some amazing progress. At the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship Yemen beat Lebanon and drew Syria while only narrowly losing to Iraq and Palestine. The Gulf Cup did produce two blowout losses but they managed to exit with their heads held high after holding Iraq to a 0-0 draw.

Sandwiched in between those campaigns was a World Cup qualifying campaign that produced its fair share of upsets. They rolled with the punches in the first game and gained a point on the road (2-2) against Singapore. Five days later, the Yemenis did the unbelievable and drew Saudi Arabia by the same scoreline- spoiling Herve Renard’s debut.

In addition to those draws, Yemen landed a hammer blow to Palestine’s qualifying chances by beating them 1-0 in a game that featured an early red card and some questionable long ball tactics for Al-Fida’i.

The key to making life easier against Al-Yemen Al-Said (Happy Yemen) Yemen are a side that can give you trouble if you don’t make the most of your chances and limit theirs. Scoring first and getting a second will effectively kill Yemen’s chances at playing their game of countering at speed through the wings. In 3/4 of their losses, Yemen could not come back from 2-0 scorelines against Uzbekistan, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

Last night, Yemen gave Uzbekistan everything they can handle and only lost by virtue of a Jalaloldin Masharipov’ penalty kick. Yemen hustled and harried the Uzbeks and when they needed a save Mohammed Khairallah stepped up time and again even saving a penalty kick from Odil Akhmedov in the game’s final 10 minutes. The fact they did all of this in the aftermath of Sami Al-Naash’s death makes this team all that more impressive.

Yemen played so well that Uzbekistan’s manager Vadim Abramov dedicated most of his post-match press conference to praising them.

Palestine look to build on momentum

For Palestine, a 4-0 win over Singapore might have stopped the bleeding but it has by no means solved all the problems. As mentioned before in this forum, Palestine face a critical month this June. They passed the first test but the result against Yemen and later Comoros (Arab Cup qualifier) will have massive repercussions on Palestinian Football.

Palestine have to win this game and to do so, Makram Dabboub needs to tweak elements of his game plan that did not work so well against Singapore. Mahmoud Abu Warda was servicable in the middle of the pitch but he did pick up his third yellow card in just his third World Cup qualifying start. The Balata midfielder has some great qualities but his ill discpline is a clear weakness, if he is to play he should play in his natural position as a right winger.

Mohammed Darweesh could be drafted in his place in a three man midfield which would allow Mohammed Rashid more freedom to get further up the pitch and combine with Moody Yameen and the attackers.

The other thing that should have been abundantly clear is that there are better options than Khaled Salem off the bench. Namely, Badr Moussa who was fantastic in his ten minute cameo and should be the first name Palestine turn to should they need a goal in this game.

Makram Dabboub’s predecessor had a bad habit of playing the same lineups and even worse implementing the same failed game plans. If Dabboub wants to make this job his own on a permanent basis he needs to show his ability to rotate and adapt.

There are 25 men in this squad and many that can contribute deserve to be given larger roles in order to state their case for a starting spot against Comoros.

Several Record Breakers in win over Singapore

In an alternate universe…

At the outset of qualifying it was the opinion of this writer that a 16 point haul would be enough to get Palestine to the Third Round of World Cup qualifying. When the group was drawn, many observers thought that Palestine could make easy work of Singapore and beat Yemen twice to repeat their point total from Pot 4 and Pot 5 teams in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

The hard part was turning a two point haul against Saudi Arabia and UAE in 2018 to a four point one against the former and Pot 2 team Uzbekistan. Palestine did just that but inexplicably lost to Singapore AND Yemen. The ineptitude of the PFA and former manager Noureddine Ould Ali is the main culprit in Palestine’s early exit from qualifying.

Lo and behold, should Saudi Arabia beat or draw Uzbekistan then that initial analysis would prove correct. 16 Points would be good enough to get the runner’s up spot and a healthy goal differential (like the one Palestine had in 2018 WCQ) could have theoretically been enough to get Palestine in the the Final 12.

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