AL WAKRAH, Qatar — The Palestinian soccer team and Syria advanced to the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time on Tuesday.
Both secured their place in the round of 16 as two of the best third-placed teams from the group stage.
Oday Dabbagh scored twice for the Palestinian team in a 3-0 win over Hong Kong in Group C and Omar Khrbin struck the only goal in Syria’s 1-0 win against India in Group B.
The Palestinian team had failed to advance from the first round in its prior two attempts. Syria had exited the tournament in the group stage in its six previous tries, most recently in 2019.
The four best third-placed teams advance to the next round along with the top two in each group.
Dabbagh had missed a slew of chances to score a winner for the Palestinian team in its 1-1 draw with 10-man United Arab Emirates on Thursday, meaning it went into its final group match with its hopes of advancing in the balance.
On this occasion, his goals ensured a commanding win.
Dabbagh opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a close-range header and Zeid Qunbar glanced another header past Hong Kong goalkeeper Tse Ka Wing three minutes after the break. Dabbagh scored his second in the 60th after Tamer Seyam’s effort came back off the bar.
Coming on as a substitute after halftime, Khrbin struck in the 77th as Syria beat India and secured third place in Group B.
Khrbin’s decisive strike at Al Bayt Stadium was Syria’s only goal in three group games.
Progress was a triumph for Argentine coach Hector Cuper, who was a back-to-back Champions League runner-up when in charge of Valencia, and led Egypt to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017.
Syria players hoisted Khrbin into the air in celebrations on the field after the final whistle.
Australia advanced as the Group B winner after a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan.
The 2015 champion had already secured a place in the round of 16 after two straight wins and confirmed the group win after picking up a point at Al Janoub Stadium.
Australia conceded for the first time but remained unbeaten.
Martin Boyle fired the Socceroos ahead in first-half stoppage time from the penalty spot after a handball from Odiljon Xamrobekov. He sent Uzbekistan goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov the wrong way.
Uzbekistan sealed a point and second spot in Group B, with substitute Azizbek Turgunboev rising to head in Jaloliddin Masharipov’s cross in the 78th.
Three-time champion Iran was one of the favorites to secure a record-equaling fourth Asian Cup title this year and it has backed its pre-tournament billing with three straight wins in the group stage.
Mehdi Taremi scored both of Iran’s goals in a 2-1 win over UAE at Education City Stadium.
UAE still advanced as runner-up ahead of the Palestinian team on goal difference after Yahya Al Ghassani’s strike in the 93rd. Al Ghassani had earlier seen his penalty saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Taremi scored his first in the 26th and then powerfully swept in his second in the 65th. Al Ghassani’s crucial goal was curled past Beiranvand from the left of the box.
Image credits: AP