Palestine reach Asian Cup last 16 for first time as China go out

By AFP   January 23, 2024 | 07:00 pm PT
Palestine reached the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time on Tuesday with their maiden win in the history of the competition, but China's fate was sealed at the first hurdle.
Palestines Mohammed Saleh (C) cheers goalkeeper Rami Hamada after he made a save during the Asian Cup group C match with Hong Kong  at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday on Jan. 23, 2024. Photo by AP/Hussein Sayed

Palestine's Mohammed Saleh (C) cheers goalkeeper Rami Hamada after he made a save during the Asian Cup group C match with Hong Kong at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 23, 2024. Photo by AP/Hussein Sayed

Syria also made history by reaching the last 16 in Qatar, with Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates advancing as well on another night of high drama.

Palestine narrowly missed out on second spot in Group C but squeezed through as one of the four best third-placed teams after beating Hong Kong 3-0.

The victory in Doha comes against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Palestinian players and staff have lost loved ones in the conflict and said before the tournament that they hoped to provide some comfort to those suffering back home.

Oday Dabbagh scored once in each half and Zeid Qunbar grabbed another before Palestine were given a late scare when Hong Kong missed a penalty.

"Thank you to the fans who are coming to support Palestine," captain Musab Al-Battat told beIN SPORTS after the game.

"Thank you from our heart."

UAE went through in second place despite losing 2-1 to group winners Iran.

Syria also reached the knockout rounds for the first time with a 1-0 win over Igor Stimac's India in Group B.

Omar Khribin was Syria's hero, his 76th-minute goal also confirming China's early exit from the competition.

China had hoped to sneak through with their third place and two points in Group A.

They failed to score in any of their three matches.

'We don't want to stop'

Australia topped Group B following a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan, with Hector Cuper's Syria progressing with those two teams as one of the best third-placed teams.

India came bottom and are heading home with no wins or goals.

"We are very happy with the qualification, very proud of my players, they made huge sacrifices to get this result," the veteran Argentine coach Cuper said.

"We played the game with one aim in our mind -- to win, and we managed to do that.

"We don't want to stop here."

Despite another early exit -- in what was a hard group -- Stimac said India would take home "good lessons".

"It was a learning experience for the boys," he said, having seen his team beaten 2-0 by Australia and 3-0 by Uzbekistan.

"My satisfaction is that we managed to create chances against Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria."

In the other game between Uzbekistan and Australia, who had already qualified, the Socceroos took a controversial lead through a Martin Boyle penalty in first-half stoppage time.

A VAR check harshly ruled that the ball had hit Uzbek defender Odiljon Hamrobekov's hand in the build-up as he slid in to tackle Australian forward Kusini Yengi.

Boyle dispatched the penalty low into the corner.

"If this is a penalty I don't understand the rules. There is no intention," said Uzbekistan coach Srecko Katanec.

The Uzbeks, who have been touted as outsiders for the title, leveled 12 minutes from time when substitute Azizbek Turgunboev got on the end of a cross to head home.

On Wednesday, pre-tournament favorites Japan will look to get their tournament back on track and seal their spot in the knockouts when they face Indonesia, who can also still advance.

Japan were stunned 2-1 by Iraq last time out, putting the Iraqis through.

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