With no October friendlies scheduled, focus shifts to Palestine U23s

In an alarming backslide to a not so bygone era, the Palestine Football Association has failed to schedule a match for its national team for only the second time since June 2015 (2020 excepted). The last time Palestine failed to play during a FIFA window was back in March 2019, when questions were swirling around the future of Noureddine Ould Ali following the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Palestine had been in talks with Malaysia for a friendly last month but ongoing coronavirus restrictions scuppered Palestine’s plans to travel to Kuala Lumpur. They instead had to settle for a pair of friendlies against Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh in Bishkek.

This month Malaysia are traveling to Amman to take on Jordan and Uzbekistan. Frustratingly, a tie-up in the Jordanian capital with Uzbekistan and Malaysia was not explored (Palestine and Jordan will meet at the FIFA Arab Cup and in the qualifying round for the U23 AFC Asian Cup).

Palestine are a somewhat settled side with a core group of players that have been together since the last cycle. That said, there is no guarantee that it will be able to call on some key players who will be otherwise engaged in club football during the FIFA Arab Cup in December.

Al-Fida’i’s best left back- Abdallah Jaber will not be released by Sakhnin even if the PFA have a change of heart and call him up. The team’s best midfielder, Mohammed Rashid will be in the midst of a domestic season with Persib in Indonesia. Oday Dabbagh, Saleh Chihadeh, Yousef Emghames, Saado Abdelsalam and Daoud Iraqi are amongst the European based players whose participation in the Arab Cup is likely to be blocked.

Testing the side’s depth, as well as the fit of key players yet to play in Makram Dabboub’s system is something that is desperately needed; the lack of friendly fixtures is frustrating, to say the least.

It remains unclear if Palestine will schedule friendlies for November. Football Palestine can confirm that the senior national team will camp in Cairo from November 17th (The FIFA window runs from November 8-16).

As for next month, the focus in October shifts to the Olympic team who will participate in the U23 WAFF Championship from October 4th to October 12th before participating in U23 AFC Asian Cup qualifying, facing Turkmenistan and Jordan on October 29th and 31st, respectively.

U23 WAFF Championship GROUP B

The young Fida’i will face a solid slate of opponents at the WAFF Championship although the reputation of two of their adversaries is considerably different at U23 level. Since their age forgery was exposed Iraq’s youth teams have taken a step back winning the inaugural U23 Asian Cup and then regressing every two years since- their last appearance saw them crash out at the Group Stage. Lebanon meanwhile have never qualified for the continental showpiece. UAE has advanced to three out of four tournaments at U23 level but neither they, nor their senior men’s team have ever participated in the WAFF Championship.

Ehab Abujazar’s side will face Iraq on October 4th before locking horns with Lebanon two days later. Their group play ends with the UAE on Friday October 8th. Should the team win the group or finish as the best second place team amongst the three runners up- they could advance to the semifinal stage.

A squad list for the WAFF Championship and the ensuing U23 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers has not been released at this time.

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