Rapid Reaction: Palestine 0:2 DPR Korea (Challenge Cup Semifinal)
Palestine Starting XI: Saleh (C); Abu Saleh, Harbi, Mahdi, Abujazr; Samara (Khaled Salem 69'), Ismail, Khader Youssef, Ashraf Nu'man (Mohammed Jamal 84'); Attal, Attieh (Kawre' 47').
Bookings: Abu Saleh 65', Ramzi Saleh 85'
Recap: A cagey affair for 42 minutes was effectively settled when the Koreans rattled the crossbar. In the ensuing panic, the ball fell to FC Basel striker Pak Kwang-Ryong who made no mistake in slotting the ball low into the right corner. Palestine had survived up until that point but you got a sense that this match was going to be a bridge too far. In order to progress, Al-Fursan knew they would have to scramble home a half chance and defend stoutly for the remainder of the match. There were a series of half chances; Murad Ismail found himself in the box with time to take a couple of touches but should have done a lot better with his effort. After the goal, a deep pass nearly found Fahed Attal in front of goal but it was centimeters too far for the striker. Palestine increasingly looked doomed in the second half as they threw everything they could against a wall of eight players. The second goal- created off a turnover in front of Palestine's goal- and ensuing chances created by the Chollima served to expose the makeshift nature of Palestine's back line. In attack, Palestine could not overcome the absence of game changing midfielders in the shape of Ismail Amour, Ali El-Khatib & Imad Zatara. Had Palestine been able to call on the services of these fleet-footed players (and one of eight defenders not available due to injury/club commitments) thing might have been different today but it wasn't to be.
Positives: Jamal Mahmoud realized that Abu Saleh would have space and had him attack from the first whistle. The tactical ideas were sound today- their application left a little to be desired but the coaching staff only had a threadbare squad at their disposal.
Negatives: The second goal was a gift and it gave the Koreans a much needed lift in a critical time of the game.
DPR Korea: The only time the Chollima didn't advance to the final stage of World Cup qualifying (since the round robin format was adopted for the 1990 edition) was when they chose not to enter World Cup qualification in 1998 and 2002. They won't be there come summertime after 1-0 losses to an excellent Japan side and underrated (but equally excellent) Uzbekistan sealed their fate. That said, they did beat Japan in November using an almost identical side as the one they used today. DPR Korea used a U-20 side in the 2008 edition but after losing to Tajikistan decided to strengthen the side for 2010 to clinch a spot at the Asian Cup. This 2012 side isn't a U-20 or even a side with fringe players- it's just DPR Korea minus the services of Jong Tae-Se.
What's Next: Palestine face their old friends from the qualifying stage- Philippines in the 3rd/4th place playoff on Monday (03/19) at 0845 GMT.