War forces Palestine, Lebanon teams to begin World Cup quest away from home

War forces Palestine, Lebanon teams to begin World Cup quest away from home

Palestine’s national soccer team will begin their campaign for a spot in the next phase of Asia’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers in Sharjah on Thursday. Due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the match against Lebanon will be played at a neutral venue. Originally, the opener was scheduled to take place in Beirut, but Israel’s response to the attack by Hamas forced officials to find new venues. The game between Lebanon and Palestine will be held at the Khalid bin Mohammed Stadium in the United Arab Emirates. Afterward, Palestine will face Australia in Kuwait on November 21. Normally, Palestine hosts their games at Al-Ram’s Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium on the West Bank.

Graham Arnold’s Socceroos will first host Bangladesh in Melbourne before facing Palestine. These matches mark the beginning of the second phase of Asia’s qualifiers for the expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup. Asia will have eight guaranteed berths, with a possible ninth available through an intercontinental playoff. The top two finishers from each of the nine groups will advance to the third phase, which is scheduled to start in September next year.

In Group B, Japan will face Myanmar in Osaka, along with Syria and North Korea. South Korea will take on Singapore in Group C, while Thailand will play against China in the other group fixture. Iran will kick off their quest for a seventh World Cup appearance against Hong Kong in Group E, where Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also competing. Saudi Arabia’s challenge in Group G begins against Pakistan, who have qualified for the second phase of Asia’s preliminaries for the first time. Tajikistan will face Jordan in the same group.

The article was reported by Michael Church and edited by Peter Rutherford, adhering to The Thomson RushHourDaily Trust Principles.

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