Palestine’s coach, Makram Daboub, commended his team as “my champions” following a narrow 2-1 defeat against hosts and defending champions Qatar in a thrilling Asian Cup 2023 clash at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar.
In a contest where both teams enjoyed significant support, Qatar’s form and experience ultimately prevailed, securing their spot in the quarterfinals. Despite the passionate home crowd and an impressive group stage performance, the defending champions found themselves under early pressure from Palestine, participating in their inaugural Asian Cup knockout match.
Wearing their white away kit, the Palestinian team capitalized on a slower start by Qatar, launching relentless attacks on the Qatari goal. Palestine’s defensive strategy, orchestrated by Coach Daboub, limited Qatar’s movements within their box and was executed nearly flawlessly by the players.
Reflecting on the match, Daboub expressed pride in his team’s efforts, stating, “My players gave it everything they could and didn’t give them much space in the beginning.”
The breakthrough for Palestine came in the 37th minute when Oday Dabbagh scored a spectacular solo goal, celebrating with the team’s signature gesture. Despite their earlier 4-1 defeat to Iran, the Fedayeen had transformed, applying pressure on one of the tournament favorites.
However, the defensive efforts faltered as Qatar’s captain, Hassan Al Haydos, equalized in the sixth minute of added time, sparking relief and joy among the home crowd. Akram Afif, the tournament’s leading goal scorer, secured the victory for Qatar with a well-placed penalty just four minutes into the second half.
Despite Palestine’s attempts to create scoring opportunities, none materialized. The physical fatigue of extensive travel, the mental strain from conflicts back home, and the emotional pressure to bring joy to their people took a toll on Daboub’s team.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by his players, Daboub praised their resilience, saying, “They have been through a difficult time but were still willing to put on a good show for all Palestinians. They are my champions.”
Palestinian fans, present in large numbers to support their team, emphasized that the squad had already achieved more than enough to bring joy to those enduring hardship in Gaza.
“Even if they hadn’t won any matches or scored any goals, we would have been proud of them,” remarked Samar Ustaz, a Palestinian resident of Qatar. “We have shown that nothing can break our spirit. Even when we are pushed to the brink, we stand up and fight back.