After months of waiting, fans of Palestinian football now know when the national team and Hilal Al-Quds will return to the continental theater.
Palestine’s World Cup qualifier against Singapore was set for March 28th of this year while Hilal Al-Quds were expected to finish off their AFC Cup Group Stage campaign in April and early May. The unexpected spread of Coronavirus throughout Asia and the world delayed these fixtures until the outbreak could be brought under some sort of control.
Asia’s governing body for the sport has announced that World Cup qualifiers will resume in October. Palestine will play host to Singapore on October 8th and will then travel to Saudi Arabia on November 12th before ending phase two against Yemen at home on November 17th.
Two unexpected and disastrous losses against Singapore and Yemen have extinguished any realistic hopes of Palestine advancing to the Third Round for the first time in their history. This is despite the fact that Palestine opened qualifying with an historic 2-0 win over Uzbekistan and were by far the better side in a 0-0 home draw against Saudi Arabia. Those four points were supposed to help Palestine advance to the next round provided they could repeat what they did in 2018 World Cup qualifying- collect the maximum twelve points from the fourth and fifth seeds in the group.
Instead, Al-Fida’i will be left trying to avoid the ignominy of finishing in last place and a possible playoff just to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup qualification round.
Hilal Return to AFC Cup Action
Things are not looking much better for Palestine’s representative in continental club competition. Hilal Al-Quds lost their opening two fixtures to Al-Ahed (LIB) and Al-Jaish (SYR) by the respective scores of 2-1 and 1-0. With only the group winner assured of a place in the knockout round a maximum 12 points in their next four matches is a must to retain any hope of qualifying.
The side from the nation’s capitol will be back in action in a yet to be name centralized venue on October 26th. Their first two matches will be held three days apart against Manama Club of Bahrain. Hilal will then face Al-Ahed on November 1st and Al-Jaish on November 4th.