Palestinian soccer team holds off Syria in first round of Asian Cup in UAE
AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
The Palestinian soccer team hoped for a qualification as it clinged to a draw against a superior Syrian team in their first fixture of the 2019 Asian soccer cup.
The context kicked off on Saturday in the UAE, in a revised format that sees 24 teams compete in six groups.
The cup's most atypical group is definitely Group B, which sees Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Australia battle for two definite places into the next round, with another decided on competition rankings.
The Syrian and Palestinian sides were playing in a sold-out arena in the Emirati cultural capital of Sharjah on Sunday, with Syria a clear favorite.
The team, which has been playing its home games more than 10,000 kilometers away from Damascus, in Malaysia, is ranked 58th on the Elo Rating system, while the Palestinian team is ranked 110th.
However, the Palestinian side, despite being brought down to ten men after striker Mohamed Saleh was given two yellow cards, managed to hold off a Syrian onslaught.
As a Jordanian outfit in disarray managed to win against reigning champions Australia earlier in the day, the result could spark hopes of a qualifications to the next stage, which would be a first for the Palestinians.
The two teams drew popular fervor in the UAE, with tickets for the match going ten times their retail value on website viagogo, according to Emirati paper The National.
The UAE is home to a large expatriate population from the region. Palestinian players almost received a hero's welcome, despite the fact they have never advanced to the next stage of the competition, or qualified for any other international events.
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