<img src='https://news.cgtn.com/news/2024-01-30/-How-Palestine-bowed-out-of-Asian-Cup-with-dignity-and-pride-1qMwlTSjuyA/img/1e86f695380d447580e5e761c74c944b/1e86f695380d447580e5e761c74c944b.jpeg' alt='Palestine's Mahmoud Abu Warda greets the fans after their Asian Cup clash with Qatar at Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, January 29, 2024. /CFP'

Palestine have truly captured the hearts of every devoted fan in Qatar. Their long-awaited entry into the knockout rounds of the Asian Cup, after a prolonged absence spanning three tournaments, has been met with an outpouring of support from even the most ardent fans of rival teams. Despite the overwhelming majority of the nearly 65,000 spectators at Al-Bayt Stadium firmly backing the hosts Qatar on Monday, it was heartening to see a strong showing of goodwill towards Palestine as well.

Then, in a truly breathtaking moment, Oday Dabbagh unleashed a wave of astonishment through the home crowd as he shattered the deadlock and propelled Palestine into the lead in the 37th minute. This goal not only ended Qatar’s streak of over 300 minutes without conceding in the tournament, but it also marked the first goal they had let in against Palestine in over two decades. 

<img src='https://news.cgtn.com/news/2024-01-30/-How-Palestine-bowed-out-of-Asian-Cup-with-dignity-and-pride-1qMwlTSjuyA/img/7c10cf55b5e64d2891482e7426a263f1/7c10cf55b5e64d2891482e7426a263f1.jpeg' alt='Palestine's players celebrate scoring their first goal during their Asian Cup clash with Qatar at Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, January 29, 2024. /CFP'

Qatar, despite their impressive streak of 10 consecutive victories, failed to find their stride in front of their eager home crowd. Their performance appeared lackluster and devoid of any inspiration, especially when they sought to reach the final third on the pitch. In stark contrast, the Palestinian underdogs harbored dreams of defying the odds and etching their names in history.

However, true to the resilience of champions, Qatar managed to seize a crucial equalizer when it seemed all hope was lost. Captain Hassan Al-Haydos emerged as their savior right before half-time, forcefully driving the ball past goalkeeper Rami Hamada after a cleverly executed corner cutback by Akram Afif. Just four minutes into the second half, Afif himself notched his fourth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot, allowing Qatar to effortlessly control the remainder of the match.

Having brought immense joy to their people, a goal they had fervently pursued throughout the tournament, Palestine, unfortunately, couldn’t find another goal to secure their continued presence in the competition. But, amid their departure, their coach Makram Daboub adamantly declared that it was not a failure. He praised his players for giving their all, even in the face of challenging circumstances. 

<img src='https://news.cgtn.com/news/2024-01-30/-How-Palestine-bowed-out-of-Asian-Cup-with-dignity-and-pride-1qMwlTSjuyA/img/498d3a1ed89f461eae8863c196f8f4c5/498d3a1ed89f461eae8863c196f8f4c5.jpeg' alt='Qatar's Akram Afif celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during their Asian Cup clash with Palestine at Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, January 29, 2024. /CFP'

“I can’t ask for anything more from them—they have honored Palestinian football,” said Daboub, whose team achieved their first-ever win in an Asian Cup by beating Hong Kong, China during their final group game. “I’m incredibly proud of my champions. They possess grand ambitions and always take pride in representing Palestine.”

As the final whistle blew, the Al-Bayt Stadium erupted in one last resounding cheer for Daboub and his players. The attendance of over 65,000 spectators solidified this 18th edition as the most-watched Asian Cup to date, with a staggering 1.06 million people having gracing the turnstiles thus far. This surpasses the previous record of 1.04 million attendees in the 2004 tournament held in China.  

The show will go on, with Qatar now set to face the victor of the last-16 clash between Uzbekistan and Thailand. As for Palestine, they can depart the stadium with their heads held high, knowing they left an indelible mark and earned the utmost respect.

By admin

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