Palestine will 'learn lessons' after group stage exit

15 May 2017

Palestine assistant coach Osama Abualia insisted the country's football team would "learn their lessons" after exiting the Islamic Soldarity Games at the group stage.

Needing a win against already-eliminated Turkey to have any chance of progressing to the semi-finals, Palestine squandered a three-goal lead to lose 4-3 in a barnstorming encounter at the Bayil Arena.

In the end, victory would not have sufficed for Sandouqa Ayman's side, as Oman got the point they needed to go through in a 1-1 draw with Algeria at the Azal Arena.

"It was certainly an interesting game," Abualia said afterwards. "We tried to attack a lot, especially in the first half, but we retreated too much after the break."

Palestine led through goals from Oday Dabbagh, Mohammed Maraaba and Islam Batran, but allowed Turkey to get one back on the stoke of half-time before capitulating after the break.

"Our defensive line failed completely," Abualia admitted. "But we have to learn our lessons from this game. It will teach us a lot about improving our performances."

Palestine bow out with just a single point from three games, having drawn with Oman and lost to Algeria and Turkey, but Abualia expects them to improve in time for the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

"We have picked up useful experience by playing against other national teams here," he said.

"If we can strengthen our defence we will perform better, and I'm sure some of our players will be selected for the Asian Games. We'll have a better result there."

Turkey coach Nedim Yigit described his side's performance as "a bit negative" in spite of their 4-3 victory, and chose to focus instead on what he hoped would be the legacy of these Solidarity Games.

"We are talking about a sporting event that unites all Muslim nations, and we are very happy to be part of it," he said. "We want the younger generation to take an active part in these Games."

"I think that the Islamic Solidarity Games are a very good experience, but fair play must prevail, irrespective of the sport."

The mood was understandably brighter at the Azal Arena, where Algeria and Oman both secured their place in the semi-finals following a 1-1 draw.
Oman coach Hamed Al-Azani said he was impressed by his young charges after they shared the spoils with already-qualified Algeria.

"I'm proud of the players," Al-Azani beamed. "It's a great achievement to get through the group stage unbeaten with such a young squad."

The game's two goals arrived in quick succession before half-time, as Algeria's Tayeb Meziani cancelled out Muhsen Al-Ghassani's opener.
After a win and two draws in Group B, Oman are now fully focused on the knockout stages.

"We played well and I thought we deserved at least a draw against Algeria," Al-Azani continued. "We now look forward to the semi-finals."

Algeria had already beaten Turkey and Palestine in their opening two matches, and Meziani's superb equaliser ensured they topped the group with seven points.

"It's not important to finish first in the group," explained manager Chafik Ameur. "What's important is to give young players a chance to get a feel for the tournament, and to improve game after game."

"It's a great experience for all the youngsters. I'm very happy that we've progressed to the semi-finals, but my primary objective is developing young players, and giving them game time," he added.

Oman and Algeria must wait until Monday evening to find out who they will face in the semi-finals, with Azerbaijan, Morocco and Cameroon possible opponents for both sides.

© AFP Services

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