Lost in the reports of how historic hosting a World Cup qualifier for the first time was the fact that the performance was quite poor. Two years into Mousa Bezaz's reign as manager of the National Team, Al-Fursan lack a distinct style and identity. The fact that Bezaz is working with an FA that now has $6 million at its disposal and league play that goes uninterrupted makes his ineptitude almost criminal.
Bezaz blamed tiredness for his team's flat performance yesterday which raises two serious questions:
1. Why is the team suffering from a general lack of fitness if it had spent 10 days in camp undergoing grueling two-a-days?
2. If the players were so knackered why didn't Bezaz rotate and play the likes of Attal, Murad Ismail, and Ashraf Nu'man from the start?
The match against Afghanistan started off brightly enough but after the first half-an-hour the tide began to shift in Team-e-Melli's favor. Bezaz should have adjusted in the first half it was clear that Palestine wasn't getting enough width from the fullbacks and wasn't creating much in the middle. As a result, Alyan wasn't getting any service up top. In the second half, these problems were exposed and resulted in Afghanistan keeping the ball well and eventually scoring the equalizer.
If Bezaz wants to keep his job he has to take action against those that went missing in this game. That should mean an abrupt end to Husam Abu Saleh's international career and a complete reshuffle in midfield. Khader Yousef, Atef Abu Bilal, and Suleiman Obeid were anonymous and did not track back or press. Many fans are on Roberto Bishara's case as well, he did not add a lot going forward but he made sure not to get beat and he had absolutely no help from any of the left sided midfielders.
Bezaz has many luxuries that his predecessors weren't afforded most notably of which are a slew of official and unofficial friendlies. Most international managers use friendlies to tinker with their line-ups, test personnel, and suss out who is ready for big time international fixtures. A normal player pool for a manager who has had two years on the job and 17 official and unofficial games under his belt should have a pool of about 50 players who have debuted/played an actual game. Bezaz has only called up 56 players, an okay number, but tends to stick with the same starters. Below is a complete list of the 56 players, player in bold have started either an official or unofficial game for Palestine:
Ramzi Saleh, Mohammed Shbair, Abdullah Saidawi, Azmi Shweiki, Fahed Al-Fakhuri, Saed Abusleem
Abdelatif Bahdari, Ra'fit Eyad, Samer Hijazi, Majed Abusidu, Ehab Abujazr, Ahmed Harbi, Haitham Dheeb, Hatem Karim, Ammar Abuseliesel, Khaled Mahdi, Omar Jarun, Shareef Adnan, Nadeem Barghouthi, Mohammed Al-Masri
Suleiman Obeid, Houssam Wadi, Ismail Amour, Akram Al-Sayouri, Ashraf Nu'man, Hesham Salhe, Khader Yousef, Rami Al-Rabi, Ma'aly Kawre', Ayman Alhendi, Mohammed Samara, Shadi Allan, Murad Ismail, Imad Zatara, Hani Abu Bilal, Atef Abu Bilal, Husam Abu Saleh
Ahmad Allan, Mohammed Abukeshk, Fadi Lafi, Ahmed Keshkesh, Fahed Attal, Mohammed-Ali Shatreet, Said Al-Sobakhi, Mohammed Jamal Jebreen, Eyad Abugharqud, Murad Alyan.
What we can glean from the information above is that Mousa Bezaz tends to stick with the usual suspects (picking 20/26 outfield players he has handed starts to). He has become slightly more open minded in 2011 returning Omar Jarun, Roberto Bishara, Shareef Adnan to the fold and finally calling up Murad Alyan but it is clear that he doesn't put much thought in forming a squad.
Bezaz almost always calls up too few defenders and when an injury or unexpected absence hits the squad thing fall apart fast (The WAFF Championship and Husam Abu Saleh at RB are prime examples). Other faults include neglecting the diaspora (Does he even know that Edgardo Abdala exists?), playing players out of position, shoehorning too many forwards into one line-up, and exhibiting zero tactical onus. The squad Bezaz announced to face UAE in his first game as manager looks nearly identical to the one he announced to face Afghanistan nearly two years later. In fact the only thing he's done is replace Abusidu with less adept personnel and finally see the wisdom in calling up Alyan, Jarun, and Bishara.
Bezaz signed on for two years back in late June/early July 2009. His job is riding on the ability to get Palestine to the group stages of World Cup qualifying. In order to do that he must beat a solid, but by no means spectacular Thailand side. Thailand have just hired a new manager (a very capable one at that) but seeing as how they're going into this match cold turkey it should be advantage Palestine. Also in Palestine's advantage is valuable first-hand experience from playing the Olympic side in March and the fact that Thailand has a miserable away record in the Middle East.
If Bezaz gets the team past Thailand he'll probably see his contract renewed for at least a year. Bezaz has yet to pass a big test and it is becoming increasingly evident that he isn't getting players to play to their potential. Perhaps we are being a little harsh on Bezaz, as we were blacked out of the first leg against Afghanistan (which by all accounts was a dominant display for Palestine). There will be a lot of discussion over who to bring in if Bezaz is let go. Many fans are already clamoring for a sensible and cheap replacement- Olympic Team Manager Mokhtar Al-Talili.
Mokhtar Al-Talili has had fewer friendlies, tougher tasks, and less talent yet has managed to accomplish more. The Olympic Team was in shambles before The Dinosaur arrived but he installed a system and searched the globe for talent. If there is a promising Gazan player he gets a chance, if there is a promising player of Palestinian heritage abroad he is approached, players are picked to fit a system instead of if they play for Hilal Al-Quds or Al-Am'ary.
The Olympic Team is at a point where it can go toe-to-toe with any side outside the Big 3. This is despite an extremely raw keeper, a shaky backline, and a whole lot of inexperience. Talili's team can keep the ball and dictate play or sit back and grind out a result. They have beaten Jordan (twice), Bahrain, and Thailand yet for all their accomplishments Bezaz has only called up one player- Ashraf Nu'man- to the senior side.