BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- As one of the two debutants into the finals of the AFC U23 Championship, Palestine is ready to make their marks in the upcoming continental tournament to be held in China from Jan. 9 to 27, 2018.
"I dedicate the qualification to the Palestinian people, especially as it's the first in the history of the Olympic team. I believe that the players worked hard during the qualifiers which resulted in this achievement," team coach Ayman Sandouqa said after his disciples made the history.
Palestine finished atop in Group E, ahead of Jordan, Tajikistan and Bangladesh, in the qualifiers. But their road to the finals was not as easier as it seemed. After a 2-2 draw with Tajikistan in the opening game, they were at the brink of being knocked out when finding themselves 2-1 down at half-time against Jordan in their second game.
Since Tajikistan had beat Bangladesh before that match, Palestine had no choice but to win. The youngsters bounced back just in time, as they managed to overturn the score by scoring twice and sealed the victory 3-2 to keep alive their hope to China.
After the decisive win over Jordan, Palestine faced little difficulty playing Bangladesh in their last qualifying match. A hat-trick from Mahmoud Abuwarda brought the team a 3-0 win and secured a ticket to their first ever AFC U23 Championship Finals.
"We are looking forward to maintaining such a good performance the following games," Sandouqa said, "We will also put a plan to represent Palestine football as best as we can in the championship."
A number of players in Sandouqa's side are chasing their careers in Europe. Among them are Al Kayed, Michel Termanini, Saado Abdel Salam and Mohamed Darwish.
What's ahead of Sandouqa and his players in China is definitely not easy, as they have been drawn with defending champions Japan, DPR Korea and Thailand in Group B.