Palestine create history by reaching third round of World Cup qualifiers

By AFP   June 6, 2024 | 05:33 pm PT
Palestine create history by reaching third round of World Cup qualifiers
Palestine players at the 2023 Asian Cup. Photo by AP
Palestine created history when they booked a place in the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time following a goalless draw on Thursday against Lebanon in Doha.

Against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, the Palestinian team has already claimed a piece of footballing history this year by making a debut appearance in the Asian Cup knockout phase.

On Thursday, Palestine, who came into the Group I match with seven points, only needed a draw to progress, and they got the desired result despite some rough tactics by Lebanon as they picked up seven yellow cards.

It will also mark the fourth consecutive time Palestine have booked their place in the AFC Asian Cup finals, to be hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2027.

Manager Makram Daboub's men take on Australia on June 11 next. The Socceroos were a 2-0 winner against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Bayern Munich-bound Nestory Irankunda, born in a refugee camp in Tanzania after his parents escaped fighting in their native Burundi, made his debut for unbeaten Australia.

And the 18-year-old had a hand in the first goal in the 29th minute when his short pass found Ajdin Hrustic to lash home from long range.

Kusini Yengi headed the second after half-time.

Chhetri bows out

Earlier in the day, PSG's Lee Kang-in and Tottenham's Son Heung-min both scored twice as South Korea trounced Singapore 7-0 while India legend Sunil Chhetri fought back tears as he made his 151st and final appearance for his country in a goalless draw against Kuwait in Kolkata.

Nearly 59,000 fans in Kolkata cheered an emotional Chhetri as he was given a guard of honor on leaving the pitch, bringing to a close an international career which put him among the world's all-time leading scorers.

The 39-year-old scored 94 goals over nearly two decades for India, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Iran's retired Ali Daei and Lionel Messi in the all-time international scorers' list.

In matches played in the Middle East, the biggest surprise was Afghanistan holding reigning Asian champion Qatar to a goalless draw at Prince Abdullah Bin Jalawi Stadium in Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia.

Qatar have already qualified for Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but could not make anything out of dominating the game and enjoying nearly 70 percent possession against a plucky Afghanistan, who now have five points in Group A.

The two-time Asia champions best chance among many came in the 57th minute, but Tahsin Jamshid's header, off a Mahdi Salem cross, was denied by the woodwork.

United Arab Emirates never looked back after an early brace in the 12th and 14th minutes by Harib Suhail and trounced Nepal 4-0 in Dammam.

Saudi Arabia were a comfortable 3-0 winner over Pakistan with two goals from Feras Al Buraikan (26th and 41st minutes) and one after the break by Musab Al Juwayr (59th).

South Korea secured the top spot in Asia Group C and passage to the final qualifying stage. Joo Min-kyu, Bae Jun-ho and Hwang Hee-chan were also on the scoresheet.

South Korea's next match is on June 11, a home game in Seoul against China, who need a point to clinch the second qualifying place after Branko Ivankovic's side drew 1-1 at home to Thailand in Shenyang.

Indonesia slumped to a 2-0 defeat against already qualified Iraq in Jakarta, finishing the game with 10 men after Jordi Amat was red carded. It was Iraq's fifth straight win.

Vietnam are now one point behind Indonesia in the fight for the second qualifying spot after a thrilling 3-2 win over the Philippines, thanks to Pham Tuan Hai goal in fifth minute of added time.

Already qualified Japan cruised past Myanmar 5-0 in Yangon.

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