Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Palestine and the Philippines to battle for Asian Cup berth

AFP, MALE

Palestine and the Philippines are looking to make history when they clash in the AFC Challenge Cup final today and try to book a place in next year’s Asian Cup in Australia.

Neither team has ever played in the continent’s showpiece, adding extra edge to the title clash under lights at the national stadium in Male which earns the champions a journey to Australia.

Palestine upset fancied Afghanistan 2-0 and the Philippines ousted hosts Maldives 3-2 in extra-time in Tuesday’s semi-finals, leaving both the winning coaches excited.

Philippines coach Thomas Dooley said his team, ranked No. 140 in the world and 21st in Asia, were confident of facing the challenge successfully to show the world they belonged to a higher grade of soccer.

“We want to play at the next level, that is not a secret,” Dooley said. “We came to the Maldives to win the Challenge Cup and are one step away from doing that, but our biggest goal is to step up and play with the big guys in the Asian Cup. When you play, and believe in it, you will be successful, so that’s why we are going step by step, and right now the biggest thing we can do is prepare the team to write history.”

Palestine coach Jamal Mahmoud said beating Afghanistan in the semis had brought his team closer to realizing their dream of performing on the big stage.

“It is not enough to be playing in the final, we have to win it too,” said Mahmoud, whose 34th-ranked side in Asia have not conceded a goal in four games so far in the tournament.

The winners will join defending champions Japan, Jordan and Iraq in Group D of the Asian Cup in January next year.

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