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Palestinian newcomers outclassed by Japan at Asian Cup

January 12, 2015

NEWCASTLE, Australia (AP) — The Palestinian players had plenty of support in their Asian Cup debut, even though Japan scored all the goals.

Palestine has become the feel-good story of the continental tournament after qualifying by winning the AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives. On Monday, the team’s vocal and colorful fans cheered wildly, but it was defending champion Japan that won 4-0 in the opening Group D match.

The Palestinians kept a clean sheet in all five qualifiers to make it to Australia, but goals from Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda put Japan ahead early. In the second half, Maya Yoshida scored another.

“We wanted to close them down because they have good players who want to play on the ground, with one or two touches,” Palestine striker Mahmoud Dhadha said. “We cannot make these mistakes again against the other teams. I hope we can do better.”

For Palestine, playmaker Ismail Alamour and striker Ashraf Al Fawaghra, better known as Nu’man, showed good technical ability when running at defenders, but failed to create any clear openings.

The team’s best chance came in the 81st minute when defender Abdallatif Albahdari sent a header narrowly wide.

Palestine meets Jordan in Melbourne on Friday and then faces Iraq in Canberra on Jan. 20.

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