Preview: Iraq vs Palestine (2015 Asian Cup)

Yaser Kassim- Iraq's midfield engine

Game Information
What: 2015 AFC Asian Cup Group Match
When: January 20th, 2016
Where: Canberra Stadium, Australia 
Kickoff: 0900 GMT

Streams: Live streaming available on the Palestine national football team facebook page and the sports section of pal24.net

Palestine Form: WLDLL
Iraq Form: LDLWL

Previous Encounters:
Iraq 3:0 Palestine
Iraq 4:0 Palestine
Iraq 3:0 Palestine
Palestine 0:1 Iraq
Palestine 2:2 Iraq
Iraq 3:0 Palestine
Iraq 4:0 Palestine
Iraq 4:1 Palestine
Palestine 1:1 Iraq 
Iraq 2:0 Palestine

Qualification Scenarios: Iraq must win this game to further boosts their chances at qualifying. Any dropped points will place emphasis on the result of the Jordan Japan game. For their part, Palestine can still qualify with a win against Iraq, a Japanese victory over Jordan, and an 11-goal swing.

Previous Matchday:

Iraq put in a strong performance against defending champions Japan while the wheels came off the bus for Palestine in Melbourne. Despite some strong attsckong play and a couple of early chances; Palestine were made to pay many a time for their lack of defensive organization.

Iraq for their part have been an excellent defensive unit in the five games under Radhi Shenashiel. They should draw confidence from their performance against Japan- whom they stifled repeatedly.

Prematch Press Conference

Ahmed El Hassan took time to emphasize that Palestine will be looking for the three points and chalked up the loss to bad luck, an inability to score early, and "a lack of expertise and lapses in the details of the game. Specifically, individual assignments."

The Palestine manager also lauded Australia's organizing of the tournament, stating that he believed the country could host a World Cup. He also thanked Palestine's fans for their great support over the past three weeks. 

In regards, to Ashraf Nu'man's status for the game Ahmad El Hassan denied reports that Palestine's star player would be held out of the last game after he stormed off to the locker room after being hauled off versus Jordan. El Hassan informed us and the media that Ashraf Nu'man simply had to "go to the toilet". 

One player that will miss the game is captain Ramzi Saleh who picked up an injury in training. Toufic Ali will get then start in his absence. 

Tactics 

Palestine have been a little hard to predict during this tournament. Ahmed El Hassan was proactive against Japan playing the likes of Ismail Al-Amour and Mahmoud Eid against the Blue Samurai but benching them against Jordan.

I would expect to see a return to a more proactive approach against Iraq as Palestine has shown a complete inability to defend. El-Hassan has suggested that additional players will get to play so perhaps we will get to see Raed Fares at right back or Musa Abu Jazr in midfield. The other players yet to play are: Ahmed Maher, Khaled Salem, and third string goalkeeper Rami Hamadi.

Iraq will be without the services of Alaa Abdul Zahraa who picked up a seco d yellow against Japan. Justin Meram who plays his club football in MLS for the Columbus Crew is the most likely replacement. Which means Younes Mahmoud will retain hist starting role.

For Palestine to be effective in this match they will need to stifle Yaser Kassim in midfield. Defensively, Ahmed Harbi's return should help paper over the cracks.

That said, Iraq have always given Palestine problems and although they may not be the team they once were, Iraq should have enough in them to win this game and advance to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Iraq 3-1 Palestine