Palestine, Philippines fight for Asian Cup berth
MALE - Palestine and the Philippines are looking to make history when they clash in the AFC Challenge Cup final on Friday to book a place in next year's Asian Cup in Australia.
Neither team has ever played in the continent's showpiece, adding extra edge to the title clash under lights at the national stadium in Male which earns the champions a journey down under.
Palestine upset fancied Afghanistan 2-0 and the Philippines ousted hosts Maldives 3-2 in extra-time in Tuesday's semi-finals, leaving both the winning coaches excited.
Philippines coach Thomas Dooley said his team, ranked 140 in the world and 21st in Asia, were confident of facing the challenge successfully to show the world they belonged to a higher grade in football.
"We want to play at the next level, that is not a secret," said Dooley. "We came to the Maldives to win the Challenge Cup and are one step away from doing that.
"But our biggest goal is to step up and play with the big guys in the Asian Cup. When you play, and believe in it, you will be successful so that's why we are going step-by-step.
"And right now the biggest thing we can do is prepare the team to write history."
Palestine coach Jamal Mahmoud said beating Afghanistan in the semi-finals had brought his team closer to realising their dream of performing on the big stage.
"It is not enough to be playing in the final, we have to win it too," said Mahmoud, whose 34th-ranked side in Asia have not conceded a goal in four games so far in the tournament.
The winners will join defending champions Japan, Jordan and Iraq in group D of the Asian Cup in January.
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