Palestinian Football Team. GETTY IMAGES

In a goalless draw at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in the Qatari capital, the Canaan Lions celebrated the result as if it were a victory, and the reason was clear: fourth consecutive qualification for the Asian Cup and advancement to the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time in their history.

The Palestinian team needed a draw to maintain second place in Group I, where they were second having a record of two wins, the same number of draws and only one defeat, numbers valid to guarantee a place in the eastern tournament that will be hosted in Saudi Arabia in 2027.

With a tireless spirit of improvement, and geopolitical adversities threatening, Palestine has found in football a way to escape from its bitter reality and make its dreams come true.

Palestine advances, Lebanon collapses

Both teams played at an intense pace, and equality reigned in Doha before the almost 3,000 spectators who watched the match. Though the ball did not go in, the defences remained firm and the goal never came despite the threats and shots on goal (3 for Palestine to 2 for Lebanon).

Palestine will close the preliminary phase of the double qualifying next Tuesday against Australia, leader of the group with five wins without defeats and qualified for the next stage. The Palestinian team, led by coach Makram Daboub, has reaffirmed its good form this season. 

In fact, the qualifying round was amazing for them: two victories against Bangladesh 1-0 and 5-0, as well as goalless draws against Lebanon and just a defeat against Australia 1-0.

In search of the epic

In the context of the war that is brewing in Gaza, the Palestinian team has already achieved a piece of football history this year through its resilience by debuting in the qualifying phase of the Asian Cup, where it fell against Qatar in the Round of 16 by the minimum (2-1).

“Considering the situation in which we are living, it is the best thing that could happen to our country in terms of our position on the international stage,” said the star of the national team, Mohammed Rachid, to FIFA microphones during an interview in March.

Said and done. That is how the great architect of this epic journey, Rachid, is optimistic about the upcoming commitments, as is Daboub, the national coach, who recently declared that he is confident that "they can compete in the third round qualification because they are a really strong team".

Round of 16 (Asian Cup 2023). GETTY IMAGES
Round of 16 (Asian Cup 2023). GETTY IMAGES

Unique opportunity

The group stage of FIFA World Cup qualification has become an increasingly exciting stage since its introduction at Italy 1990. This format, which culminates in a decisive third round, keeps fans in suspense as their national teams fight for a place in the most important tournament of nations.

Since 1998, the qualification has featured a new format with three groups of six teams each. Unlike previous editions where there were only two groups, this change increases the chances of teams like Palestine, who are looking to make history for the first time, to advance to the next phase.

The top two teams from each group will secure their place at the World Cup, while the third and fourth places will have one last chance to fight for a place through a play-off. The tension is guaranteed in this decisive phase that promises to be a roller coaster of emotions, where each match will be crucial and could change the course of the teams on their way to the 2026 World Cup in the United States.