23 Tickets to Afghanistan: Goalkeepers
The race to replace Ramzi is on.
It's been slow going news wise since Palestine wrapped up its qualification for the 2012 Challenge Cup. So I thought it would be interesting to start to speculate on what Mousa Bezaz's squad might look like for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan (the first leg will most likely be "Hosted" by Afghanistan in a neighboring Central Asian nation) in late June. We start with the Goalkeepers.
Staying at Home:
Leo Zamora (Curicó Unido, Chile Primera B)- He's 35 and has not played for Palestine since 2004. His stint with Egyptian side Smouha was short lived, and did not result in a call back from the national side.
Ramzi Saleh (Unattached)- It all depends on his health but it seem like a major risk to force him back into action earlier than anticipated. He underwent surgery in Germany for a problem in his ACL in late January and the recovery time was set at six months. Saleh will most likely miss the qualifier against Afghanistan and the proceeding second round match against Thailand. The coaching staff might include him as a member to help boost the squad's morale, much like he did during the Challenge Cup. The captain is five appearances away from breaking Saeb Jendeya's all time caps record.
Saed Abu Saleem (Balata, Palestine WBPL)- The latest third choice goalkeeper to be selected by Bezaz his heroics in goal have helped Balata rise to fourth in their first season in the WBPL. Saleem has conceded 23 goals in 18 games with six clean sheets making him the fifth best stopper in the WBPL by a goals allowed:games ratio.
Fahed Al-Fakhuri (Thaqafi Tulkarem, Palestine WBPL)- Only two clean sheets to his name this season but make no mistake, Al-Fakhuri has been pivotal of times allowing Thaqafi to snatch valuable points to put them four points above relegation with three rounds of play to go. His goals allowed:games ratio makes him the fifth worst (or if you're a glass half-full type person, seventh best) goalkeeper in the league. 28 goals in 19 games which isn't bad considering Thaqafi is bereft of talent and Al-Fakhuri is only 22 years of age. His last call-up was in February against Tanzania where Gazan players were omitted from the squad due to travel restrictions. Out of the three contenders vying for emergency goalkeeper spot his chances are probably the slimmest
Azmi Shweki (Al-Am'ary, Palestine WBPL)- There will be an argument over whether Shweki is purely a beneficiary of a solid defence and great team. Al-Am'ary are now top of the table and their squad includes the free scoring Eyad Abugharqud as well as national team defenders Ahmed Harbi and Khaled Mahdi. Al-Am'ary have been very stingy defensively as of late putting together five clean sheets in a row en route to becoming league leaders. Shweki has eight clean sheets on the season and is the second best goalkeeper in terms of the goals allowed:games ratio allowing 14 in 18 games.
On the Plane!
Mohammed Shbair (Shabab Al-Khaleel, Palestine WBPL)- He has years of experience playing for the national team at Olympic and Senior level. It seems likely that he will lose out to the older, wiser, and taller Abduallah Saidawi but he has proved himself capable on more than one occasion. He hasn't had the best season with Shabab Al-Khaleel, the Hebron side are in the midst of a rebuilding project, but has amassed four clean sheets.
Abdullah Saidawi (Hilal Al-Quds, Palestine WBPL)- A late bloomer having made his first appearance for the national team in 2009. In the past two years, though, he has proved himself to be the best goalkeeper in the WBPL. Through 18 games he has allowed a measly 9 goals. Hilal Al-Quds have leaned heavily on his shot stopping and the goalscoring of Murad Alyan who has accounts for 15 of the Jerusalem side's 29 goals. Saidawi has a league high nine clean sheets and will most definitely be starting (and probably captaining) the squad against Afghanistan.