Palestine to start their qualifying campaign against Uzbekistan and Singapore
Head coach Noureddine Ould Ali talks about their tough group and their opponents
The team's main goal is to join Asian giants in the next round
The Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ resume this week with the continent’s second qualifying round. Palestine have prepared for this latest stage of the campaign by taking part in the recent West Asian Football Federation Championship, where they finished runners-up behind hosts Iraq after registering wins against Syria and Yemen, drawing with Lebanon and losing to the Iraqis.
In an interview with FIFA.com, Palestine coach Noureddine Ould Ali spoke about their participation in the regional tournament and preparations for the qualifiers.
"It was positive given the goals we had set," he said. "It was tough, though, as it came right before the beginning of the football season, at a time when nothing's happening at most clubs. We played four games where we fielded about 15 players."
Palestine have been drawn into a difficult group with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Singapore. Asked about their opponents, Ali said: "It’s a tough section that includes strong teams and others that have shown a lot of potential in recent competitions, such as Uzbekistan. As for Singapore and Yemen, we will work hard to prepare for them and will not be taking them for granted."
Speaking about the Saudis, who are favourites to win the group, Ali said: "They picked up a lot of experience at the World Cup and in the Asian Cup qualifiers. We played them twice in 2015 and we'll be doing what we can to beat them."
Ali believes that Uzbekistan are on a similar level with the Saudis: "Uzbekistan have shown that they're a regional powerhouse, causing a lot of trouble for a number of big sides. Their playing style is also very similar to the European teams."
Back on home soil
Palestine are looking forward to hosting their opponents, with the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium set to stage their game with Uzbekistan, something Ali sees as positive for his players.
"It’s going to be great to play at home in front of our fans, who will give us massive support. We will do our best to get some good results and avoid losing at home."
Palestine will play twice this month, against Uzbekistan and Singapore. Looking ahead to that first game, Ali said: "Uzbekistan have a lot of strengths, but they also have some weaknesses that we need to exploit. Despite the problems we have and the fact that some players aren’t fit yet, we will rely on teamwork to win."
Turning his attention to Singapore, the Palestine coach said: “The problem is the lack of time, given that we have only five days between the two games. Our players will need to rest before we travel to Singapore and will hope to come back with a good result."
Ali's initial goal is qualification from the group: "We're aiming to get as many points as we can. We will need to pick up 12 points from our home games to achieve our main aim and make our supporters happy.
“I've had a taste of the Asian Cup, and though I know the task ahead won't be easy, like any other coach, I'm now dreaming of qualifying for the World Cup."