Kathmandu: AFC Challenge Cup 2012 semi-finalists Palestine took a massive stride towards booking their place in the next edition of the tournament after thrashing debutants Northern Mariana Islands 9-0 on Monday.
Palestine scored four goals in the first half and added five more in the second half at the Dashrath Stadium with KH Salem scored a hat-trick while Alla Atiya and Abdulhamid Abuhabib notching a brace. Also on the scoresheet were Haytham Theeb, scorer of Palestine's winner in their opening match against Bangladesh, and Iyad Gharqoud.
Palestine, will take on hosts Nepal on Wednesday with a draw enough for them to seal a place in the tournament proper. Northern Mariana Islands will wrap up their first major international adventure against a spirited Bangladesh who bounced back from their opening loss to beat Nepal 2-0 to stay in contention for a place in the finals.
The top teams from each of the five qualifying groups gain entry to the finals while the two best second-placed sides will also join the top five and hosts Maldives in next year's tournament proper.
The winner of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup will also receive a place in the AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Australia.