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Palestine's teen idol Dabbagh a step closer to UAE 2019

Friday, September 7, 2018
Oday Dabbagh-Palestine

Bishkek: With less than four months remaining until the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the emergence of a talented teenager is providing cause for optimism for fans of Palestine.

While Korea Republic's Lee Seung-woo and Australia's Daniel Arzani are among the young Asian stars to make headlines in 2018, Palestine look to have unearthed a gem of their own in 19-year-old Oday Dabbagh.

The youngster, who plays club football for West Bank Premier League champions Hilal Al-Quds, rounded out an impressive overall performance with his first senior international goal in Thursday's 1-1 friendly draw with Kyrgyz Republic, putting his name firmly in the selection frame for January's Finals.

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Speaking at the post match press conference in Bishkek, a reserved Dabbagh revealed his satisfaction at finding the back of the net for the full national team.

"I'm happy," he said. "Happy to play for the national team, I'm happy to score the first goal in my career for the national team and my wish is that I can improve in the future."

Though equally comfortable as a winger, Dabbagh - like all good strikers - appears to have timed his run to perfection.

He burst into the Asian consciousness at January's AFC U-23 Championship in China, where he scored in three consecutive matches against DPR Korea, Thailand and Qatar as Palestine reached the last eight for the first time.

That gave Dabbagh confidence at the continental level, and he wants to continue the job in the UAE, despite Palestine being drawn into an imposing Group B featuring defending champions Australia, neighbours Jordan and an Omar Khribin-powered Syria.

"I want to keep working hard and be better again in the (AFC) Asian Cup," he declared.

"We want to give a good impression of our national team, and we want to qualify (for the knockout stage)".

Dabbagh, who also found the back of the net against Indonesia in last month's Asian Games, is aware that January's continental Finals present an opportunity to show his talents to a wider audience.

But while he welcomes the opportunity to play on the continent's biggest stage, he insists helping the Palestinian national team improve is the overriding motivation for any future move.

"Overall, I want to support Palestinian sport. Sure, I want to be at a high level, and play at a high level, because that means I can help the national team and help Palestine."

Palestine head coach Nourredine Ould Ali praised Dabbagh's performance against the Central Asians on Thursday, but warned that it was early days in the build up to Palestine's AFC Asian Cup opener against Syria in Sharjah on January 6.

"Oday was good today. He's a good player. If he wasn't I wouldn't have called him for the national team," said the Algerian boss.

"We are working to be better in the Asian Cup. I think, in September, the players aren't (at their best) because the league started in August. Some players have had two or three games; others have had one.

"We have time, but we don't have (much) time. We must focus on our work, our players and our target," he concluded.

Dabbagh and Palestine's road to the UAE continues on Tuesday, when they face fellow AFC Asian Cup qualifiers Qatar in Doha.

Photos: Kyrgyz Republic Football Federation, INASGOC

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