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Hamed: Palestine will treat Saudi Arabia game as a final


Riyadh: The Palestine national team made history in 2014, when they defeated the Philippines in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup to qualify for their maiden AFC Asian Cup.

Back then, Yaser Hamed was just 17 and a graduate of Athletic Bilbao’s renowned youth academy. The bourgeoning defender enjoyed spells in the youth teams of several clubs in Spain’s lower divisions, before signing his first professional contract in 2016.

After their maiden appearance at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, Palestine returned for the subsequent edition in 2019, and it was later that year when Hamed made his national team debut. Since then, the centre-back has become one of the pillars of the team and has been ever present in his side’s first five qualifying fixtures for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

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"All players develop throughout their careers," Hamed told FIFA.com. "Personally, I’m open to analysing and learning new things from any player in any match.

"As a central defender, I’m always looking for any chance to score from set-pieces, which is what I did against Singapore. One of my virtues is my aerial game, so I always try to do my best when I'm presented with the chance to convert."

Palestine are currently bottom of Group D in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and AFC Asian Cup China 2023™, following one win, one draw and three defeats.

Five points separate them from section leaders Uzbekistan, making Tuesday's clash with Saudi Arabia a must-win if they are to have a realistic chance of progressing to the next round.

"We were unlucky in our previous matches, but I believe in our ability as a team and we’re determined to give as good as we get," said Hamed. "I’m proud of the group, because we’ve grown together as professionals and are laying the groundwork for a promising future.

"We’ll treat this match as if it were a final, because we need the win. Three points would keep our chances of qualifying for the World Cup alive.

"We expect a very difficult match, because the Saudi national team and its league have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Win or lose, we promise to battle with every last breath."

Despite the difficulty of the task, Hamed and his teammates will take encouragement from their corresponding home fixture against the Green Falcons on October 15, 2019. On that occasion, the home defence, marshalled by goalkeeper Rami Hamada, withstood everything thrown at them for a valuable goalless draw.

"It was a combination of immense concentration and having a good understanding of our opponents’ style of play," said Hamed. "I've been following the Saudi league for many years and I go into every game with the mindset of giving everything. My motto is. 'You can rest back at the hotel.'"

Yaser Hamed on:

The influence of Athletic Bilbao’s youth academy...

"I’m proud to have been part of a great club like Athletic Bilbao, where I was able to improve my technical skills and develop a strong on-field personality."

His international debut against Yemen and scoring the winning goal...

"It was an amazing experience for my first cap. I couldn’t imagine it would turn out to be so special. I hope there are other beautiful moments in my career soon."

His keen eye for goal...

"As a kid I enjoyed playing up front when kicking about with friends, so I guess I’ve retained some of my finishing skills."

Sources: FIFA.com, AFC

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