23 Tickets to Afghanistan: Defenders
Will Tito return to the National Team after a two-year layoff?
This entry is the second of a four part series you can read the first installment here. For the sake of brevity we only assess players who have previously been called up to the national team.
Staying at Home:
Bruno Pesce (Olympia Agnonese, Serie D, Italy)- Much like his club teammate, Roberto Kettlun, Bruno is in a footballing abyss. He plays what amounts to semi-professional football in Italy for a team that is struggling to stay up in Italy's fifth division. Moreover, according to this article it seems that Bruno will retire at the end of this season. Pesce has been capped five times playing in three 2006 World Cup qualifying matches against Iraq, Chinese Taipei, and Uzbekistan. His last appearance for Palestine was in 2006- An Asian Cup Qualifier against China.
Hernán Madrid (Taraji Wadi Al-Nes, WBPL)- Things haven't gone according to plan for Hernán. His move to the West Bank Premier League was supposed to serve as a fast track to the national team. Things started well, as Madrid helped his side complete a preseason cup double by winning the Palestinian Supercup and the Yasser Arafat Cup over Jabal Al-Mokaber and Al-Am'ary, respectively. Unfortunately, for the Red & Yellow, their league campaign got off to a dreadful start despite being hot preseason favorites to win the WBPL. The high profile signing has failed to make a single Team of the Week (selected by a panel of Kooora.com contributors) a damning assessment of how average this high profile signing has been.
Hatem Karim (Jabal Al-Mokaber, WBPL)- Looked decent against Sudan then got himself injured on a play that resulted in a comically easy goal for Iraq in the WAFF Championship. Bezaz hasn't called him up since.
Khaled Mahdi (Al-Am'ary, WBPL)- Plays for the best team in the land and was Bahdari's partner in defence during the Challenge Cup Qualifiers. He might get the call ahead of half a dozen other contenders based purely on those two things.
Roberto Bishara (CD Palestino, Chilean Primera)- For whatever reason, Bishara has yet to be called up by Mousa Bezaz. A lot of that has to do with the fact that only a small number of our friendlies have been played on official FIFA matchdays. We do know that Bishara was called up for our friendly against Gambia that was cancelled at the last minute. If called up, expect Tito to slot in as a leftback in the place of the mediocre and inexperienced Samer Hijazi. Will be available for the Pakistan friendlies barring Palestino qualifying for the Apertura playoffs.
Mohammed Al-Masri (Shabab Al-Dhahrieh, WBPL)- One of the big reasons why the Gazelles are in third place this season has been the leadership of Al-Masri at the back. His status as one of the most solid centrebacks in the league earned him a call-up to the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers. Unfortunately, for Al-Masri he really didn't take advantage of the opportunity in warm-ups against Pakistan and Kuwait's Olympic Team to show that he belongs. At the qualifying tournament itself, Al-Masri was the only defender not to make an appearance in the team's three games.
Ahmed Harbi (Al-Am'ary, WBPL)- Good in attack but can be exploited for his lack of defensive skills. The fullback did score the winner against Myanmar in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers which is going to boost his chances of being called up again. Might be looked over in favor of Faisaly's Shareef Adnan (who is just as effective at attacking) and Abusidu (who can defend).
Hussam Abu Saleh (Hilal Al-Quds, WBPL)- Part of the best defence in the WBPL but he might lack the ability at international level. Did not start any of Palestine's games during the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers.
Rafit Eyad (Jabal Al-Mokaber, WBPL)- Has been solid for Jabal Al-Mokaber in the league but the fact that the defending champions have fallen apart this season does him no favors. He was called up to face Dynamo Moscow last October. He'll have a chance to stake a claim for himself but he'll need to play lights out. Being part of a team that has allowed 30 goals in 20 games (only three clean sheets) is a damning statistic.
Mustafa Abu Kwek (Al-Bireh, WBPL)- Will suffer due to the fact that he plays on such a bad team but has an edge on Eyad due purely to his performance against Thailand with the Olympic Team. Bezaz has stated that he will give the best players from that squad a chance with the senior team.
Nadim Barghouthi (Al-Bireh, WBPL)- See: Abu Kwek, Mustafa.
Haitham Dheeb (Hilal Al-Quds, WBPL)- Anchors the stingiest defence in the WBPL (13 GA in 20 games) but might miss out on the squad if Roberto Bishara and Khaled Mahdi are included alongside Jarun and Bahdari. Bezaz will not call up more than 4 centrebacks.
On the Plane!
Majed Abusidu (Tadamon, Kuwait First Division)- A lot has been made about Abusidu's disappointing performance at the WAFF Championship. To be fair, though, a lot of that was a result of him being forced to play centrally against Iraq and Yemen after Bahdari was unjustly shown a red card. Defensively, he is the best option Palestine has on the right wing his competition will come in the form of Ahmed Harbi, who had a good showing at the Challenge Cup and Al-Faisaly's Shareef Adnan.
Omar Jarun (Tampa Bay FC, NASL)- He has just reentered the fray after spending nearly four years being overlooked by more than one coaching staff. Will not be available for the Pakistan friendlies in May due to the American season running from March-November. Bezaz tried to get him into the Challenge Cup qualifying squad but the player was in the midst of looking for a new club after being released by Pogon Szczecin. His performance against Tanzania, however, has done more than enough guarantee him a spot.
Abdelatif Bahdari (Wehdat, Jordanian Premier League)- He has been absolutely dominant for Wehdat this year. They have won the Jordanian Supercup, the FA Shield, the Jordanian League, and are in the semifinals of the FA Cup. Wehdat have just clinched their group in the AFC Cup with two matchdays to go, and have to be considered one of the favorites to lift the trophy. Bahdari has anchored a backline that has lost only once all season and has conceded a measly 20 goals in 31 competitive matches. The defender also has two league goals to boot and has only been cautioned twice in twenty games. It is looking increasingly more likely that Bahdari will be moving to a bigger league in the near future.
Samer Hijazi (Jabal Al-Mokaber, WBPL)- He's the only player Palestine has at the moment that plays as a leftback on a weekly basis. He is serviceable at best but he is only 22/23 so there is some hope that he will improve.
Shareef Adnan (Al-Faisaly, Jordanian Premier League)- Offers something a little different than Abusidu in that he can play as a right winger. His inclusion in the squad could mean the omission of Ahmed Harbi.