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Palestine's players celebrate their second goal during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group C match against Hong Kong at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

Al Wakrah, Qatar: Palestine and Syria qualified for the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for the first time on Tuesday with victories in their last group matches.

Palestine wrapped up their Group C campaign in style with a 3-0 win over Hong Kong after Oday Dabbagh grabbed a double, securing their spot in the last-16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Iran won the group after beating the UAE 2-1 to finish with nine points.

Palestine were on course to finish second when Iran led UAE 2-0. But an injury-time goal from UAE’s Yahya Al-Ghassani pushed Palestine back to third on goal difference after both teams finished with four points.

Palestine opened the scoring when Dabbagh powered home a header under pressure in the 12th minute while Zeid Qunbar doubled the lead with a header across goal.

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Syria's players celebrate with their forward Omar Khribin after the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group B match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Doha, on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

Right place

Dabbagh then got his second when he was in the right place at the right time to tap in a rebound when Tamer Seyam saw his curling strike come back off the crossbar.

Hong Kong had the opportunity to score a consolation goal when they were awarded a penalty after a VAR check but Everton Camargo’s spot kick came off the bar.

Mehdi Taremi scored twice for Iran in their victory, with both goals assisted by Sardar Azmoun either side of halftime.

Al-Ghassani had seen a penalty saved earlier by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand but the UAE forward found the bottom corner in the 93rd minute for the crucial goal that moved them back to second to qualify despite the defeat.

Uzbekistan qualify

Earlier, Uzbekistan joined Australia in the last 16 after the two teams played out a 1-1 draw in their final group game while Syria beat India in the other encounter in Group B to qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

Australia had already qualified for the knockout stage and guaranteed a top-two finish, with the result moving the 2015 champions to seven points while Uzbekistan finished second with five points.

“We came here at the start of the tournament to top the group and we’ve got the job done,” Australia coach Graham Arnold told reporters.

“It’s the most important thing and we move forward now one game at a time and see who our next opponent is.” Australia had an early goal ruled out for offside but they took the lead on the stroke of halftime when they were awarded a controversial penalty following a VAR check for a handball from Odiljon Hamrobekov.

'Never a penalty'

The Uzbek midfielder was attempting to make a sliding tackle to stop Kusini Yengi in the box when his trailing hand made contact with the ball, with Martin Boyle putting away the spot kick confidently after sending Utkir Yusupov the wrong way.

“The Australian coach was honest and said it was never a penalty,” Uzbekistan coach Srecko Katanec said.

“If this is the penalty rules, then nobody knows the rules. There’s no intention and still it’s a yellow card.” But Uzbekistan equalised in the 78th minute when Azizbek Turgunboev climbed over the defence to head home Jaloliddin Masharipov’s cross at the far post.

In the other group game, Syria beat India 1-0 after Omar Khribin — the 2017 Asian Footballer of the Year — netted in the 76th minute to give the Middle Eastern side their first goal of the tournament.

Syria finished with four points and the AFC later clarified that they are also through to the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams across all groups “regardless of final results from other groups”.

It marks the first time Syria have advanced to the knockouts since their Asian Cup debut in 1980.

India exit the competition without scoring a goal in three losses.