Palestinian team in next round of WCup qualifiers

The Palestinian team advanced to the next round of Asia’s

preliminary qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after drawing with

Afghanistan 1-1 on Sunday and winning 3-1 overall.

The only one of FIFA’s 208 members which is not a U.N.

recognized state, the Palestinians face Thailand in the second

preliminary round.

Palestinian defender Hasam Wadi scored in the 11th minute,

before Balal Arezou grabbed an equalizer in the 63rd for

Afghanistan.

The Palestinian team defeated Afghanistan 2-0 in the first leg

of their World Cup qualifier, played in Tajikistan because of the

security situation in Afghanistan.

The match was the highest profile soccer game on Palestinian

territory to date.

”This is the most important game ever in Palestine,”

Palestinian Football Federation chief Jibril Rajoub said.

Rajoub is a former Palestinian security chief who spent 17 years

in Israeli prisons. He left politics in 2006 and was appointed head

of the Palestinian Football Federation and Olympic Committee two

years later.

The Palestinian team remains a long-shot to make it all the way

to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Ranked No. 171 in the world by FIFA – just six spots behind

Afghanistan – the Palestinian team needs to make it through the

second preliminary round to be included among the 20 Asian teams

entered in the main draw for World Cup qualifying.

Palestinian athletes need Israeli permits for most travel,

either to cross Israel from Gaza or to enter or leave the West Bank

– a hurdle that has often kept players from key matches.

Israel’s Olympic Committee said it is trying to facilitate

greater movement for Palestinian athletes and Israel’s military

said it began easing restrictions on Palestinian athletes last

year.