Defying expectations, war-torn Syria on cusp of securing Russian Federation berth

Posted September 06, 2017

After that, there would one more hurdle: a November play-off against a team from North and Central America.

Syria went into Tuesday's match with already-qualified Iran knowing that a win could see them claim the second automatic qualification spot in Group A and for a short while, after Tamer Haj Mohamad's first-half opener, the Qasioun Eagles were on course to do just that.

But the Saudis had a +7 goal difference as compared to Australia's +5, which was enough to send them through. The team, referred to by many Syrians as the "Qasioun Eagles" after a mountain overlooking the capital Damascus, has been on an impressive run despite being forced to play all its games in other countries.

Since March, Qatar, China and Uzbekistan have all been on the receiving end of last-gasp goals from the Syrians as the country's World Cup dream moved closer to reality.

Hiroki Sakai saw an effort hooked off the line from a corner before Genki Haraguchi shot narrowly wide, but Al Muwallad missed the best chance of the first hour moments later, wrestling the ball away from Nagatomo only to be thwarted by Eiji Kawashima's foot when through one-on-one. With another 0-0 draw against Iran, Korea maintains second in the Group A standing, two points ahead of Syria and Uzbekistan.

They have played their home fixtures in Malaysia.

The goal in Tehran meant a lot to the team whose ecstatic on-field celebrations were matched by fans at home and the TV commentator.

This is the fifth time Saudi Arabia has made a World Cup.

Qualification could have been automatically clinched with a victory in Iran, which had nothing to play for after already securing its place in Russian Federation.

"For this reason", Ain continued "many people in Syria hate sport and consider it purely a divisive political entity, rather than a sporting entity that brings people together". Al-Soma, who recently joined the national team, plays for Saudi club Al-Ahli.

"Of course we wanted the national team to win", even if Syria is divided into "the opposition and the regime", said 30-year-old Abu Badr in Eastern Ghouta, where a group of fans watched the game in a farm. During the match, Shin Tae-yong, head coach, used a 4-2-3-1 formation with Hwang Hee-chan up front and Son Heung-min as a left winger.

Postecoglou addressed the media again on Wednesday morning, now with the new route to Russian Federation and the hurdles along the way mapped out.

The last 24 hours have been fairly disastrous for Ange Postecoglou and his Socceroos team.