Palestine into next World Cup round

Palestine beat Afghanistan 3-1 on aggregate after first home World Cup qulifying match in Al Ram.

    Afghanistan's Mohammad Yusef Mashriqi runs at the Palestinian defence in Al Ram [Reuters]

    Palestine drew 1-1 with Afghanistan in their first-ever home World Cup qualifier to reach a second-round tie against Thailand, having beaten the Afghans 2-0 in Tadjikistan last week.

    Afghanistan cannot host games in Kabul due to security concerns.

    Wadi Hossam scored the critical Palestinian goal in the 11th minute in Al Ram on Sunday, while young Afghan striker Balal Arezou equalised in the 63rd.

    The match was played in the newly upgraded Faisal Husseini National Stadium, near the Israeli security fence separating the occupied West Bank from Jerusalem.

    Last month, in qualifiers for the London 2012 Olympics, the Palestinian team were knocked after losing 2-1 at home to Bahrain.

    Until recently, the Palestinians – coached by French former Sochaux defender Moussa Bezaz – were obliged to host international games abroad, usually in Jordan or Kuwait, because of poor security and inadequate infrastructure at home.

    But since March, Palestine has been playing their home matches at home, a development loaded with symbolism as Palestinian leaders prepare to seek international recognition of their state in September at the United Nations.

    Palestine have been a member of FIFA since 1998 and the international body contributed to the renovation of the Faisal Husseini stadium, named after a Palestinian nationalist leader in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem who died in 2001.



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