You knew it was coming. No matter how hard Aboud and I try and keep things professional on this blog, the fan in us makes a yearly appearance to furiously type out a 3000 word diatribe about the state of affairs. This is one of those times, World Cup Qualifying for us is over and it seems like Moussa Bezaz will not have his contract renewed. So there really hasn't been a better time to write one of these.
Assessing the campaign:
Palestine played four games, they were poor in two of them and excellent in the other two. So the 1-2-1 record seems rather appropriate. The positives we can take from this campaign are the positive goal difference and the fact that we'll be ranked 21st (out of 43-45 teams) if the AFC chooses to retain the same qualifying format. This is important because it means we would be more likely to face a regional minnow instead of a regional power.
I previously promised not to give these out for the second leg of the Thailand game because of the spirit displayed by the team. I will instead speak in generalities.
Mohammed Shbair (GK)- I don't want to say anything bad about him. I'd rather focus on the solid game he had in the first leg where he saved a last minute penalty which would have all but condemned us. The fact of the matter is he needs to position himself better, Ramzi Saleh is always in a position to make a save because he adjusts his body while the ball is in play. Shbair got caught flatfooted on both goals.
Ahmed Harbi- Very adept at providing width but defensively he is a liability. If there was a way to combine Harbi and Abusidu you would have the perfect right back. Not surprised to see Harbi involved in conceding both goals.
Jarun/Bahdari- Excellent. Got better with each game they played together, a shame they've only been partnered together four times (vs. Tanzania, vs. Afghanistan, and twice vs. Thailand).
Khaled Mahdi- I was expecting the worst but to be honest with you but over two legs Mahdi was solid. Reminds me of Carlos Bocanegra of the United States, in that he can play LB but he's better playing in the middle.
Ismail Amour- Tireless worker but what I didn't like was how easily he went to ground a couple of times. I think Amour saw the Thai players going down and decided to go tit for tat. Bad call.
Khader Yousef- Where was this guy in the first leg? Kept the ball a lot better, got forward played good passes. Showed why he is an ever present starter in Bezaz's squad.
Houssam Wadi- A machine, can do the dirty work and has shown that he isn't a slouch when it comes to going forward.
Ashraf Nu'man- Did alright. Was going head-to-head with the Thai captain so the subdued performance was to be expected.
Fahed Attal- Great pass to set up Alyan for the first goal. Somehow missed a tap-in 50 seconds into the second half that could have ended a five-year duck.
Murad Alyan- How does he do it? I still can't figure out how he beat three defenders and the keeper on the second goal. Where did the ball go? This guy has a job outside of football? 7 goals 7 games... He may be 34 in December but I wouldn't bet against him surpassing Al-Kord's 15.
Subs- Eyad Abugharqud on the left? Doesn't suit him. Suleiman Obeid on the right? Better than him in the middle. Ali El-Khatib- One to watch for but still raw.
Bezaz- Should he stay?
According to this article Rajoub has dismissed the coaching staffs of the National, Olympic, and Women's teams.
I will say this for Bezaz he will (potentially) leave the national team in a better state than he found it. Getting past the first stage of World Cup Qualifying and the Challenge Cup is something the team failed to do in 2007 and 2009, respectively. On the other hand, Bezaz has had resources that were previously unavailable: Steady league play, ability to organize friendlies, and a $6.5 million budget.
Tactically, Bezaz only settled on a team and a shape in March during the Challenge Cup qualifiers. It was one that could be rather defensive at times and one that Bezaz was hesitant to stray away from even against weaker opponents.
As far as squad selection is concerned Bezaz made two decisions that kept him from being condemned to the Ezzat Hamzeh Hall of Shame. Calling up Omar Jarun in February was a no-brainer but why he didn't call up other long lost national team players (Edgardo Abdala, Roberto Kettlun, Alexis Norambuena) is puzzling. Murad Alyan's debut in the Challenge Cup proved to Bezaz that he was wrong to ignore him for so long.
So far the only name that has been floated around is former Zamalek manager Hossam Hasan. Hasan doesn't have a lot of experience but he helped rejuvenate the Cairo giants in his one and a half season in charge. His first season saw him take Zamalek from 13th to 2nd he was unlucky not to win a title this year as league action was stopped whilst Zamalek was coasting in first place. This move would make sense, Palestine would get a more established coach and Hossam Hasan could rebuild a reputation in tatters after his outspoken support of Hosni Mubarak.
The other name that has been widely mentioned (by the fans, at least) is Olympic Team Manager Mokhtar "The Dinosaur" Al-Talili. Under Al-Talili, the Olympic team came painstakingly close to advancing to the final 12 of Olympic Qualifying all the while playing organized, tactically aware football. What was more impressive was the team's evolution with every passing match. With Khaled Salem, Abdelhamid Abuhabeeb, Ali El-Khatib, Hicham Ali, and many more primed to make the jump to the senior team its no surprise that many fans are clamoring for this move.
Change the home stadium?
Faisal Al-Husseini has been the team's home stadium since its inauguration in 2008. Three official matches have been played here the 1-1 friendly draw vs. Jordan, the 1-1 WCQ draw vs. Afghanistan, and the 2-2 WCQ draw vs. Thailand. The good news is we're undefeated on home soil! The bad news is we're also winless. These games have seen Palestine start well and in each game Palestine has scored in the first 10 minutes. Three games might be to small a sample to claim a pattern but some fans have had enough especially after seeing the Olympic Team lose here on penalties to Thailand and throw away a 2-0 aggregate lead to Bahrain.
If a change is made there are two likely replacement candidates Jericho International Stadium and Dora International Stadium in Hebron. Dora can hold up to 20,000 and is home to the most rabid and organized supporters group in the WBPL.
While watching the first leg of the Thailand World Cup qualifier, I reached the conclusion that the most badass player on the national team is Majed Abusidu. There is no way I would want to get into a fight with this guy. Sure, Jarun and Bahdari are massive but they're gentle giants. Majed Abusidu has a death stare that scares the sh!t out of me.