Making their debut in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, Palestine’s inclusion in the competition was already a feel-good story for the nation.
They’ve made strides in improving their national football and the culmination was finally featuring in the continent’s premier tournament.
And it appears they’ve continued to do so as they’re back four years later and what they should be eyeing is further improvement and even possibly making a few surprises along the way.
Back in 2015, they were placed in Group D where they had to contend with strong squads like Japan, Iraq and Jordan.
The result was a comprehensive beatdown as they surrendered 11 goals in the process while only scoring once in the competition — but there was positivity in the air as they finally made it to the big dance.
Now, the team is slightly different with a new philosophy coming in due to a new coach, the Lions of Canaan should now show their fangs as they try to battle with rivals in the region.
They started things with a bang, too, securing a 0-0 draw with Syria — their first ever point in the Asian Cup.
Coach: Noureddine Ould Ali
Captain: Abdelatif Bahdari
Best performance at Asian Cup: Group Stages (2015)
Last time out in 2015: Group Stages
January 6: Syria v Palestine (Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah — 8:00 pm local time) — 0-0 draw
January 11: Palestine v Australia (Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai — 3:00 pm local time)
January 15: Palestine v Jordan (Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi — 5:30 pm local time)
THE KEY PLAYER — RAMI HAMADEH
One of the toughest positions in football is being the ’keeper and Rami Hamadeh seems to be one of the young stars ready to breakout for Palestine.
The national team is used to a certain type of keeper with Ramzi Saleh as the nation’s all-time record holder for number of caps.
But with the sport ever-changing, Hamadeh seems to be the new breed as he is excellent in all facets of the game and the 24-year-old may be out to open a lot of eyes on his capacities while defending Palestine’s goal.
THE YOUNG STAR — ODAY DABBAGH
Just like Hamadeh, another highlight for Palestine is young star Oday Dabbagh who is only 20 years old. However, he seems to have the confidence of a player years older.
He was impressive during Palestine’s run at the Under-23 Championships and he continued to produce very good performances during international friendlies.
If given chances, it is likely that Dabbagh will also make his presence felt.
Going up against highly-ranked teams like Syria and the defending champions Australia, this group is certainly tough especially with only two spots assured seats in the next round.
Gritting out a 0-0 draw with Syria was a good start, and sees Palestine above Australia heading into Friday night’s game.
However, the most plausible thing that Palestine could achieve is to make things hard for these heavyweights and show their continued progression.
In the basis of rankings they’re a bit better than Jordan so that match-up should be a stern test for them if they can contend or even get the victory.
If they can give a few surprises and turn people’s heads then that should already be a success for the national team.