Palestine eliminated from U23 Asian Cup qualifying

A week ago, Palestine would have gladly taken a 1-1 draw against the newly crowned WAFF Champions and group hosts Jordan.

What they did not bank on was losing to highly unfancied Turkmenistan in their first game. That 3-1 reverse left them needing a win by at least two goals to have any chance of advancing to the Finals next year.

Manager Ehab Abujazar made only a single change to his starting XI- a questionable decision given how putrid and ineffective the side were against Turkmenistan. Zeid Qombor came in for midfielder Hamed Hamdan as Palestine attempted to play something akin to a 4-4-2.

In spite of their greatest efforts, Palestine could not muster any attempts on Jordan’s goal in the first half as the sides went into the dressing room scoreless.

Jordan opened the scoring two minutes into the second half thanks to a long range effort from Ali Olwan. That prompted Palestine to ring in the changes and once again Al-Fida’i looked far more effective once Ali Abu Alfa came on.

The Hertha Berlin man was the protagonist in winning and delivering the corner that equalized the score in the 75th minute. Left back Wajdi Nabhan’s scrambled goal meant that Jordan had to sweat for the final 15 minutes and also extended Palestine’s undefeated record against Jordan at U23 level.

There will be several questions asked of the coaching staff who were afforded a month with this team but seemed to lack answers when posed with difficult questions.

The decision not to call up Hilal Al-Quds’s Reebal Dahamshe, who had been so effective for the U20 team two years ago, will leave many asking: “What if?”

Palestine’s inability to qualify for the second time on the trot was down to decisions like those and left the team playing as a unit less than the sum of its parts.