An emotional Palestinian team will lock horns with Australia on Tuesday at the neutral venue of Kuwait after its World Cup qualifier was moved from the West Bank due to continuing conflict in the region.
Australia after dispatching Bangladesh in style five days ago, will be seeking to extend their lead at the top of Group I of the World Cup qualifiers. However, the expected big crowd at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium will be passionately rooting for Palestinians, a team that has never appeared at the World Cup.
“We’re very sympathetic for everyone with what’s going on,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said of the Gaza conflict. “But again, it’s a game of football and that brings a lot of joy to everybody.”
Palestinian coach, Makram Daboub has been unable to call all his usual squad as three of his players were unable to get out of Gaza to report for a training camp in Jordan. Those that have made it are, the Tunisian said, struggling to focus.
“The players are in the hotel or on the bus most of the time following the news on their phones and communicating with their families,” Daboub said. “They are in a constant state of anxiety with the continued aggression and war in Palestine.”
Despite the concerns, Daboub was happy with the performance against Lebanon. “We should have won the game but it is a good point for us. We know that Australia is a strong team and we need to focus on that as best we can.”
Meanwhile, Japan travels to Saudi Arabia to meet Syria after defeating Myanmar 5-0 for a seventh successive win that starts the campaign to reach an eighth successive World Cup. Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu still wants his team, without injured English Premier League star Kaoru Mitoma, to be more clinical.
“We have to be able to create more opportunities and reduce the amount of times we find ourselves in difficulty,” Moriyasu said.
Elsewhere India is looking to follow its 1-0 win over Kuwait with a home win against Asian champion Qatar. Saudi _Arabia travels to Jordan and Iran visits Uzbekistan.