Palestinian team ousted in World Cup qualifier

MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH
AP
Palestinian soccer players warm up before  World Cup qualifier  game against Thailand in West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, July 28, 2011. The Palestinians' hopes of a World Cup place were dashed on Thursday when their team could only draw 2-2 with Thailand, who made it through to the third round of Asian qualifiers with a 3-2 aggregate victory.  For the Palestinians, the loss marked a disappointing end to a World Cup qualifying campaign that had become a symbol of nation building.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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Palestinian soccer players warm up before World Cup qualifier game against Thailand in West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, July 28, 2011. The Palestinians' hopes of a World Cup place were dashed on Thursday when their team could only draw 2-2 with Thailand, who made it through to the third round of Asian qualifiers with a 3-2 aggregate victory. For the Palestinians, the loss marked a disappointing end to a World Cup qualifying campaign that had become a symbol of nation building.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

AL-RAM, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian soccer team played to a 2-2 tie with Thailand on Thursday, ending a World Cup qualifying campaign that had become a symbol of nation building.

This was the Palestinians' highest-profile game played on home soil. The team was a big long shot to make it to the tournament in Brazil in 2014, but a victory over Afghanistan in the first round provided hope.

The Palestinian team is the only one of FIFA's 208 members that is not a U.N. recognized state. Its players often need Israeli permits to travel — either to cross Israel from Gaza or to enter or leave the West Bank.

More than 5,000 fans began chanting "Palestine, Palestine" after Murad Eleyan put the home team ahead 1-0 in the third minute.

Thailand's Datsakorn Thonglao tied it in the 33rd minute and Eleyan restored the Palestinians' lead in the 90th minute. Thonglao evened the score again with a goal in stoppage time, and fans responded by pelting the field with water bottles.

The Palestinians lost the opening away leg 1-0. Thailand reached the third round of the Asian qualifiers with a 3-2 total-goals victory.

"We are very disappointed because we wanted to win and qualify, but we have played against a strong team," Palestinian coach Musa Bazaz said. "We started very well, but in the second half we were not good at the beginning. At the end we scored a goal, but we were very late."

Younis Abu-Lail, a 17-year-old fan, left the stadium in tears.

"I came here with a dream that Palestine would qualify," he said. "It would have been good for us."