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Asian Cup soccer: Palestine to play 3-time champion Iran first

Asian Cup soccer: Palestine to play 3-time champion Iran first

Reuters photo.

Doha: The Palestinian soccer team will start its Asian Cup campaign on Sunday. The team, which has no domestic soccer and limited opportunities, will take on Iran, a three-time champion, in their opening match, the Associated Press reported.

The match is on the same day as the Israel-Hamas war reaches the 100-day mark.

"There has been very little football activity in Palestine for three months since the start of the war, and this impacted us negatively, but we played friendlies abroad and qualifiers," team captain Musab Battat said Saturday. "We want to put in good performances and get good results for our fans."

Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos handed the honour of taking the pre-tournament oath to Battat at Friday's opening ceremony in Lusail.

"As a captain, saying the pledge was a proud moment for me as a captain of Palestine," Battat said.

His team lost 1-0 against Uzbekistan and drew 0-0 with Saudi Arabia in warmup games this month. In November, it lost 1-0 against Australia and drew 0-0 with Lebanon.

Despite that winless run, Battat spoke with confidence ahead of facing Iran.

"Our preparations went well, we are ready and fully aware of the size of the task at hand in this tournament. We are in good form at the moment and raring to go," he said.

The Palestinian team's coach, Makram Daboub, spoke of his desire to bring "joy to our people."

"Iran are one of the best teams in the continent. They have a lot of top players and are a talented group," he said. "It's between them, (South) Korea and Japan for the title in my opinion.

"Recently we played very well against Australia, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, so in one match we fancy our chances, and we can dream of going through to the next round."

The United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong are also in Group C.

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