|Palestine prepare for the friendliest of friendlies|
Where: 5 Julliet Stadium, Blida, Algeria
When: February 17th, 2016
Kickoff: 1600 GMT
Palestine has spent the past week in Algiers where they were warmly greeted by the hosts at the airport, the hotel, the training ground and pretty much anywhere else they went. Algeria's fervent support for the Palestinian cause has been on full display these past few days with hundreds even coming out to chant during the team's training sessions.
More after the jump...
Preparing for UAE
There's no question that this encounter- against a strong Algerian Olympic side- will serve as a litmus test for the team ahead of the game against UAE. Abdel Nasser Barakat's side seemed to find their attacking ethos in their last match against Malaysia. In Ahmad Abu Nahya, they have found a striker who can stretch the defence, create his own chances, and finish ruthlessly.
Defensively, the partnership of Bahdari and Dheeb has yet to surrender any goals. Dheeb is not with the team in Algeria but his partnership with Bahdari has flourished at club level- with Shabab Al-Khaleel the runaway leaders at the time of writing.
Palestine will no doubt field a full strength line up and experimentation will be kept to a minimum.
Projected Starting XI
The only changes from the side that won 6-0 in Amman will be Battat (with Alexis Norambuena absent), Salah comes in for Dheeb, while Seyam and Sameh Mar'aba will try and wrestle a starting spot away from the likes of Ashraf Nu'man, Mahmoud Eid, and Jaka Ihbeisheh.
Scouting the Opponent
With very little information on the Algerian Olympic side available to us- we asked our friend Maher Mezahi to give us the low down on this promising generation who almost exclusively play in the local league. You can (and should) follow him on Twitter @MezahiMaher.
Algerian football is undergoing a renaissance of sorts at the domestic and international levels. In 2008, the Federation of Algerian Football was one of the foremost agents in lobbying the FIFA Congress to change a law that locked uncapped players who represented their country at a young age. Since then, the majority of Algerian internationals have come from France as Algeria scooped up players who were good enough to play for youth national teams, but not the senior side.
In 2011, the Federation also decided to ‘professionalize’ the domestic league. That basically meant that it set fiscal and administrative regulations, and the league has looked better since. Two Algerian clubs have made the final of the last two CAF Champions Leagues, and this Olympic team – entirely made up of local players – qualified to the Olympic Games for the first time sine 1980.
This Algeria U23 side won their matches in Senegal by defending as resolutely as possible, and then countering quickly and precisely. Zinedine
Ferhat and Abdelkader Meziane were particularly impressive in transition
Pierre-Andre Schurmann was brought in after Christian Gourcuff, as the Federation did not want the senior manager caught up with so many tasks. He has experience coaching in his native Switzerland, and he has done a good job with Algeria's youngsters. Drawn in a group of death during the 2015 U23 AFCON, Schurmann ensured progression by organizing a compact defensive bloc and lightning quick counter attacks.
Players to Watch
|Ferhat in action with USM Alger|
Zinedine Ferhat: A prodigious talent who has been starting for his club, USM Alger, for three years now. Has lungs of steel and monopolizes the right flank in attack and defence with his ubiquity. Heavily linked to moves to Sporting, Montpellier and Marseille.
Abdelkader Salhi: A big goalkeeper with the best clean sheet record of the
past two seasons. Has become somewhat of a spot-kick specialist, expertly
guessing which way opponent shoots and then palming it away. Should
integrate the national team as soon as the Olympic Games are done.
Oussama Chita: A smooth operator in central midfield. At 19 years of age, Chita is one of the youngest players on this team, yet plays like the oldest. He keeps things ticking in midfield with intelligence and maturity.