By Daniel Etchells

Palestine line up ahead of their first-ever appearance at the Asian Cup ©Getty ImagesPalestine made their first-ever appearance at the Asian Cup today, but the match did not have the fairytale ending the team so wanted as they were comprehensively beaten by holders Japan at the Newcastle Stadium in Australia. 

Goals from Yasuhito Endō, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida condemned the West Asian nation to a 4-0 defeat in Group D, with their misery compounded 17 minutes from time when defender Ahmed Mahajna was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Palestine, who were admitted by FIFA in 1998, qualified for the tournament by winning the Asian Football Confederation's Challenge Cup in May.

The country's inaugural appearance at a major football competition comes at a time when it is embroiled in a conflict with Israel and continuing with its efforts to be recognised as an independent state on the West Bank of the River Jordan and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast.

"The pride I felt is something I cannot describe," Palestine coach Ahmed Al Hassan said after the match. 

"There was a lot and the most important thing was to raise the Palestinian flag and national anthem in Australia.

"We wanted to produce a good performance to show everyone that, even with all the trouble we have, we can play football."

Yaser Kasim celebrates his winning goal for Iraq against Jordan ©Getty ImagesYaser Kasim celebrates his winning goal for Iraq against Jordan ©Getty Images

Palestine's next two opponents are Jordan and Iraq, two sides who met in the group's other encounter at the Brisbane Stadium today.

Yaser Kasim's 77th minute strike earned 2007 champions Iraq a 1-0 win to put them level on points with Japan, who they face on Friday (January 16).

Tomorrow's action sees the second round of games in Group A as hosts Australia go up against Oman, and two-time winners South Korea meet Kuwait.

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