Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Canberra: Coach Ahmed Al Hassan praised the improved performance from his Palestine side in the aftermath of their 2-0 defeat to quarter-finals bound Iraq at Canberra Stadium on Tuesday that brought to a close their historic AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 campaign.
Having lost their previous Group D games by four goal margins – 4-0 to Japan and 5-1 to Jordan – Palestine’s back-line showed hugely improved resiliency and frustrated Iraq for long spells.
Although Younus Mahmood eventually broke the deadlock on the 48th minute, Ashraf Nu’man went close to finding an immediate leveler before Ahmed Yasin added some gloss to the scoreline for Iraq with a late second goal.
“We knew before the match that we had a very slim chance to reach the second round, so we had no pressure this time,” said Al Hassan, who handed first starts to goalkeeper Tawfiq Abduhammad and forwards Khaled Salem and Ahmed Wridat.
“We thought it was an opportunity for new faces to get a chance. Tawfiq, for example, is an outstanding goalkeeper; we know that very well, his future is bright with our team. We expect him to play an important role in the future of the Palestine team.
“We have performed a different type of match today and achieved a better result compared to the past two matches against Japan and Jordan. I believe that everyone on my team played a wonderful performance.”
The tournament’s sole debutants, having qualified for the tournament last May by winning the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives, Al Hassan hailed the impact their maiden continental campaign would have on both his players’ developments and the continued improvement of football in Palestine.
“We knew before the tournament that we would play with teams with high FIFA rankings, much higher than ours and we have gained and accumulated a lot of experience for our team for the future,” said Al Hassan.
“There are huge lessons to be learned in such a great tournament like this. The players’ experience having played three times here in Australia is definitely much better than before they came here and this will be reflected in the future.
“This was Palestine’s first participation in this tournament and I think that this is the beginning for Palestinian football, this is not the end.”