Palestine will go into their Asian Cup match against Australia confident and primed for another upset after securing their first-ever tournament point against Syria.
That’s the view of Palestinian journalist Bassil Mikdadi who is in the UAE covering the Asian Cup.
The Lions of Canaan kicked off the competition with a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Syria, even more remarkable considering they played 22 minutes with just 10 men after defender Mohammed Saleh was sent off.
That was Palestine’s first-ever point in any international tournament, considering it was only admitted to FIFA in 1998 and this is only the second major competition the sovereign state has played in.
Four years ago the Fedayeen were smashed 4-0 by Japan, 5-1 by Jordan and 2-0 by Iraq in their Asian Cup debut down under. Palestine are currently ranked 99th in the world, 10 places above Jordan and 58 places below the green and gold.
Noureddine Ould Ali’s team employed a 4-2-3-1 formation against the Qasioun Eagles on Monday (AEDT) and effectively parked the bus, playing on the counter, the same as Jordan did in their 1-0 win over the Socceroos.
Mikdadi believes Palestine will use the same stifling tactics against Australia as they did so successfully in the match against Syria.
“Tactically I think the Australian game will be very similar to what we saw vs Syria – neutralise for 45 minutes, work your way into the match and then go for it in the final quarter of the game with the aid of some subs off the bench,” Mikdadi told The World Game.
“There's a selection headache now as Mohammed Saleh is suspended and Daniel Kabir Mustafa is just coming off an injury – is he 100% fit? Nobody knows. Tamer Salah is the other centre-back and he's been a liability in every match he's featured in this year.
“The calculus for us was to find a way to get a point from the first two games. So it's job done and although it wasn't pretty by any means, we can now put 2015 and the three losses behind us.
“It was also 100% deserved – Syria were neutralised. Their best chance was actually the result of a foul on Rami Hamada.”
Mikdadi feels the Socceroos’ succession of injuries both before and during the Asian Cup, to the likes of Aaron Mooy, Daniel Arzani, Mathew Leckie, Martin Boyle, Andrew Nabbout and Josh Risdon, could aid the Lions of Canaan.
Australia also head into the game under huge pressure and desperate for victory after the Jordanian shock.
“I have a lot of respect for the Socceroos but this tournament will really test the depth of the team,” he said.
“Mooy is a great player and Boyle looked to be some find. It really isn't the same team without them.
“That said, Australia are the holders and while we might have some really good players, we are still a nation looking for its first win at an Asian Cup finals.”
According to Mikdadi, the Socceroos may rely on their athleticism and physicality to beat Palestine.
“I don't want to use stereotypes but Australia are extremely athletic and they use that to their advantage against a lot of teams in Asia who are either too short, too weak, too slow or a combination of the three,” he admitted.
“That said, their advantage is less prevalent against us and the other teams in the group.”