DOHA – Palestine reached the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time after beating Hong Kong 3-0 on Jan 23 for their maiden win in the history of the competition.
They just missed out on second spot in Group C but advance as one of the four best third-placed teams, with Oday Dabbagh the hero for his two goals.
United Arab Emirates went through in second place despite losing 2-1 to group winners Iran.
The historic victory in Doha comes against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
“Thank you to the fans who are coming to support Palestine and the national team of Palestine. Thank you from our heart,” captain Musab Al-Battat told beIN SPORTS after the game.
“We will do our best to put a smile for the people.”
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.
A pre-match moment’s silence was overrun by shouts of “Free Palestine”.
No side had played more Asian Cup matches without a win than Hong Kong (12 games) or Palestine (eight), but victory would offer either side a chance of making the last 16.
In the 12th minute, Palestine scored their first goal on the way to breaking that duck.
Battat made an overlapping run from right-back and launched a cross into the box which Dabbagh headed into the net.
Hong Kong were dealt a blow when centre-back and match-day captain Vas Nunez sustained an arm injury and had to be replaced by Li Ngai-hoi.
But they started creating chances as the half wore on, Philip Chan and Everton Camargo blazing over.