Tuesday 17 March 2020, 15:59

Improved performances fuel Palestine to strive further

  • Palestine the biggest climbers of 2020

  • Team claimed Bangabandhu Cup for second time with four wins from four

  • "Everyone contributed to this achievement," said coach Ould Ali

“Our goal has always been to enhance our performances and results, and we’ll be doing all we can to further improve our ranking in the coming months,” said Palestine head coach Noureddine Ould Ali after learning that his side had surged up the standings in the first FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of 2020.

Despite sending a weakened team to this year’s edition of the Bangabandhu Cup in Bangladesh, Palestine won all four of their games. In the group stage, they defeated the hosts 2-0 before repeating the feat against Sri Lanka. In the semi-final, they overcame Seychelles 1-0 then beat Burundi 3-1 to retain the title they won last year.

In an interview with FIFA.com, Ould Ali stressed that everyone had contributed to this achievement, saying, “We decided to field our reserve team, who travelled without me. The aim was to give some of the squad the opportunity to play in order to improve and gain more experience, which in turn will benefit the first team.

"These matches weren’t easy, and to win all of them and defend our title is a testament to the talent of our players and their ability to overcome any challenge they face."

Thanks to these wins, Palestine made marked progress in the latest FIFA Ranking, where they were both the biggest movers (up three places to 103rd) and the team with the most points gained (up five to 1204). Historically, however, Palestine have enjoyed higher rankings, with the team reaching 73rd in 2018, having finishing 2017 in 80th. This would suggest that they are capable of rising even further if they can continue to get good results in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers.

Qatar 2022 qualification results to date:

  • Palestine 2-0 Uzbekistan

  • Singapore 2-1 Palestine

  • Palestine 0-0 Saudi Arabia

  • Yemen 1-0 Palestine

  • Uzbekistan 2-0 Palestine

"Our primary goal is to obtain good results and improve our performance. The coaches, players and association officials all share the same goal, and we do our utmost to achieve our objectives," said Ould Ali. "We started well in the World Cup qualifiers, beating Uzbekistan and drawing with Saudi Arabia, but due to the circumstances currently affecting the team, we’ve had some poor results in our away matches. That’s something we’re working hard to overcome.”

Palestine currently have four points after five rounds of qualifying, with two of their remaining three games at home. As to their chances, Ould Ali said, "Yes, there are nine points up for grabs, and we’ll do everything we can to secure them all to keep our World Cup qualification hopes alive. If we don’t achieve this, then we’ll continue our journey in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. We want to build on what we’ve achieved so that we have a better future.”

Remaining Qatar 2022 qualifiers:

  • Palestine v Singapore

  • Saudi Arabia v Palestine

  • Palestine v Yemen

2019 was a very good year for the Palestinian national team, bringing their second-ever appearance at the Asian Cup. At the tournament in the UAE, the Lions of Canaan drew with Syria and Jordan and lost to Australia. Then later in the year, they took part in the West Asian Championship in Iraq, where they performed solidly in beating Yemen and Syria, drawing with Lebanon and narrowly losing to the hosts.

"Our players are determined to win in order to make the Palestinian people happy," said the team's Algerian manager. "They have supported us everywhere we’ve gone and the players will do everything they can for them. Despite the difficult circumstances we are going through, we are really motivated to do well in 2020.”