Preview: Iraq vs. Palestine (2019 WAFF Championship)


What: 2019 WAFF Championship 
When: August 2nd, 2019
Where: Karbala, Iraq
Venue: Karbala International Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 PM Jerusalem Time
TV: Iraq Sport, Kuwait Sport, Jordan Sport, Duhok Sport, Syria TV 
Streams: Streaming live on our site & Facebook Page

Previous Encounters: 

Iraq lead the series with a 12-3-0 record. Including a perfect 4-0-0 record in WAFF Championship play. 


Plotting an upset 

Palestine got what they needed in their first game against Yemen but the afterglow of only a second win at a WAFF Championship will not last very long. A change in the format will see the two group winners will advance to the final, reducing Palestine's chances of getting out of the group stage for the first time in their history. 

If Palestine are to get there they will need to get past a team that has owned them since the first time they crossed paths at the 2002 WAFF Championship. Palestine has avoided defeat three times, most recently in a friendly in Basra in May 2018. The other two results- a 2-2 draw in 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualifying and a 1-1 draw in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying- are ones that are still talked about today. 

If Palestine are going to have any hope of progressing to the final of the WAFF Championship the new generation will need to put an end to the humiliation suffered at the hands of Iraq for the last 17 years. 



Stuttering start 

Iraq got off to a winning start against Lebanon but there was a lot to be desired from the hosts, who other than the scoring the winning goal, did not do all that much. Srecko Katenac will most definitely chop and change his lineup in an attempt to find fluidity and uncover some fringe players who could contribute to the upcoming World Cup qualifying effort. 

Lebanon caused problems in the first half and had their fair share of half chances that, had they been finished off, could have turned the encounter on its head. In attack, Lebanon effectively stifled Iraq and only a poor giveaway in midfield opened the door for the winning goal. 

Iraqi fans will hope that their team can grow stronger with each game and there was evidence to that as Iraq was much improved after an abject first half. 

Rotation

Rest and recovery will play a big role in preparing both teams as there will be only two days between the first and second games. Palestine does not have a lot of depth and it seems that many of the players that played against Yemen will also feature against Iraq. 

Noureddine Ould Ali has leaned heavily on the veteran presence of Abdelatif Bahdari throughout his tenure but it is inconceivable that he starts against Iraq. There is also evidence that as his physical gifts slowly diminish he is becoming a liability for the team. His contributions might just outweigh his mistakes but they are there for everyone to see. While he made several key clearances and assisted Yaser Hamed's goal he also gave away a dangerous free kick. 

Before that, he also clumsily turned the ball over at the top of the box. Against better opposition, Palestine could have been punished. 

We have been talking about the end of Palestine's most capped outfield player for a while now and Friday might just be the time to see what a partnership of Mohammed Abu Mayala and Yaser Hamed can do against a top tier opponent. 

There are other players who should be dropped in order to better harness the skill and talent in the side. A better striker would have scored at least once instead Mohammed Basah was let down by his atrocious first touch on more than one occasion. When the ball wasn't bouncing off of him like a brick wall he was somehow conspiring to miss a wide open net from eight yards out. Moreover, his hold up play- which a non goalscoring striker can fall back on was also non-existent.  In short, Balah was a ghost and dropping him for a midfielder against a stronger opponent is an obvious and necessary change. 

With searing temperatures of 45 C in Karbala there has to be added consideration to additional rotations. This will be challenging given the fact that the team's bench is made up of six outfield players that did not feature on Tuesday with a combined single cap between them. 

FP's Preferred Formation: Rami Hamadi; Musa Farawi, Yaser Hamed Mayor, Mohammed Abu Mayala, Abdallah Jaber; Mohammed Rashid, Shadi Shaban, Mohammed Yameen; Mahmoud Abu Warda, Islam Batran, Oday Dabbagh.