Thoughts on Tanzania-Palestine

So it appears now that we have suffered a blackout similar to the one we had when we played against Mauritania. This comes with the territory when you're playing smaller, less reputable African nations. That said, I think Tanzania is vastly underrated side you don't draw a World Cup finalist (Algeria) in AFCON qualifying without being a good side. They might have been without Vancouver Whitecaps duo Nadir Haroub and Nizar Khalfan but this is a side that draws the majority of its players from the domestic league. This is also a side that was a lot sharper than our national team, having played 10 matches in a time period stretching from late November to January.

From all accounts, Tanzania deserved their win but could have been made to settle for a draw if Palestine finished their chances. I think a lot of the problems described in the match report are a result of very poor squad selection. I sometimes recoil in horror at how top-heavy Bezaz's squads are. Only five defenders were called up for this game, and that includes Shareef Adnan who is a very attack-minded wingback. As far as the midfield goes, Bezaz seems to have a proclivity to select wingers and often leaves his squad bereft of a holding midfielder or a box-to-box type.

The only player in the squad that was capable of doing any sort of dirty work in the midfield was Hesham Salhe and his diminutive size makes him liable to be overwhelmed by bigger and stronger opponents. Hani and Atef Abu-Bilal are wingers in the mold of Pedro (of FC Barcelona) they are fast and attack relentlessly and are best used that way. Khader Yousef and Mohammed Jamal Jebreen are also wingers. Mohammed Shatrit and Ashraf Nu'man are deployed as forwards at club level. Shadi Allan is a playmaker and by all accounts hasn't really been all that special this WBPL season. Which leaves Mohammed Samara the most talented player of the bunch to try and settle the midfield, win the ball, keep possession and drop back. Which is all well and good, but Samara is an attacking midfielder who if given time on the ball is capable of setting up goals or even scoring one or two himself.

What we learned:
If you look at our squad again, considering all this information here is what we had at our disposal: 3 goalkeepers, 3 centrebacks , 1 rightback, 1 right-footed wingback, 4 wingers, 1 tiny defensive midfielder, 2 attacking midfielders, and 5 forwards. I can't say I'm surprised we lost but at least we now know two things. Abdullah Saidawi is good enough to step in for Ramzi Saleh in the short term and get us to the AFC Challenge Cup. We also know that Omar Jarun and Abdelatif Bahdari are so dominant that they can almost make up for a lack of a midfield to shield them. I said it once and I'll say it again there is a giant Edgardo Abdala shaped hole in our midfield and he needs to be brought back into the fold.

The final takeaway from all this is that we have to do something about our forwards. Ahmed Keshkesh and Fahed Attal don't often appear on the field at the same time at Wehdat. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they are very similar players, both are forwards that like to be involved in build up play. Take a look at our the Keshkesh playlist on our YouTube page. Almost every single goal Keshkesh scores is the result of a late opportunistic run into the box. Sure, he gets the occasional goal off a header from a set piece, but this is a guy who is never pushing the line in an attempt to beat the offsides trap. Fahed Attal is a forward in the same mold and I think the insistence to play them together is hurting the team.

Bezaz should pick the one most in form (right now that's Attal) and pair him with a poacher. Domestically we can choose from Murad Alyan (13 goals in 12 games) or the younger, but equally prolific, Eyad Abugharqud (11 goals in 12 games). A lot has been made of the fact that Alyan is 33 years old, but all this man has done is score. The third option is to call up a guy like Mustafa Hallaq who is the second leading scorer in Lebanon right now and is playing for league leaders Al-Ahed.

Palestine's next match is an unofficial friendly series against Pakistan on March 1st and 4th. The Olympic Team will play the first leg of its Olympic Qualifier against Thailand in Bangkok on February 23rd.