Preview: Palestine vs. Iran (Friendly)



What: International Friendly
When: October 5th, 2011
Where: Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran
Kick0ff: 1900 (Local Time)

TV/Streams: JaamJam2 (click the first link, click IRIB TV Channels, click on JaamJam2)

Previous Meetings:

2008: WAFF Championship L 0-3
2007: WAFF Championship L 0-2
2002: West Asian Games D 2-2
2000: WAFF Championship D 1-1

Palestine will face off against an Iran squad stacked with some of the biggest names in Asian football. Ali Karimi, Javad Nekounam, and Andranik Teymourian have all been included in Carlos Quieroz's 23-man squad.

One promising player called up for Iran is promising Wolfsburg forward Ashkan Dejagah. Some might remember him from his days as a German national at youth level when he famously refused to play against Israel in a U-21 Euro qualifier. Four years on, he is set to make the switch to the Iranian national team after accumulating a whopping 50 caps at youth level for Germany. His debut will have to wait though due to bureaucratic red-tape within the Iranian government.

Bureaucratic red-tape, has affected Palestine's squad for this game as well. The official line is that all the Palestinians with Israeli documents have turned down the call-up due to work commitments. This is very strange, especially seeing how the only player known to hold down a full-time job is Murad Alyan.

The more likely scenario is that players with Israeli travel documents were excluded either unilaterally by the PFA or at the behest of the Iranian counterparts. This means the squad will be without: Murad Alyan, Ahmed Harbi, Atef Abu Bilal, Ali El-Khatib, Haitham Dheeb, and new Shabab Al-Khaleel recruit Jehad Rabie.

The absences of established National and Olympic team players opens the door for some new players to make an impression. Khaled Salem will get an opportunity to strut his stuff with the full senior team. If Palestine are to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation he will most likely get the start as he is the only forward able to play as a lone striker effectively.

With Khaled Mahdi missing out through injury (and the exclusion of Omar Jarun and Roberto Bishara) there is also an opportunity for a center back to stake his claim for a spot in the team. Nadim Barghouthi is the most in form whilst Ri'fat Eyad is the most experienced. There is also an opportunity for Hilal Al-Quds's Raed Fares to show what he can do at right back. Samer Hijazi will most likely start on the left once again.

The midfield will be under tremendous pressure to keep Iran at bay and try and carve out some semblance of possession. Houssam Wadi returns to the squad but there are questions over his match fitness having not played a single match with Al-Am'ary this season. A premium will need to be placed on keeping possession of the ball- something the team struggles to do away from home. Abdelhamid Abuhabib should be given the role of playmaker if only for his ability to hold on to possession.

This match will be a struggle but could provide a valuable learning experience ahead of the Pan-Arab Games and Challenge Cup. Iran will most likely win this match. They're at home and are probably the best team in Asia in terms of raw talent but Palestine can and should make it difficult for them. Prediction: Iran 3 Palestine 1