Can Syria overcome it all?
By: Editorial Staff | October, 09, 2017
To say that Syria was a long shot to reach the World Cup finals is putting it lightly. This is a country in the midst of a brutal civil war that unfortunately seems endless. No matter where you stand politically this is a story that is going to get people talking.
The second leg will be played in Sydney with it all tied up 1 - 1 after the first leg played in Malaysia due to the war.
Syria have scrapped to hard-fought draws against heavyweights South Korea and Iran, and wins over China, Uzbekistan and Qatar.
The winners go into a two-legged clash with the fourth-placed team from the CONCACAF federation — which could still be the United States depending on what happens on Tuesday in Trinidad. We aren't even going to go there yet, imagine that story.
Syria have never reached the World Cup finals and needed a very late injury-time equaliser to against Iran to take them into the Asian play-offs.
The breakaway goal to make it 2-2 in the 93rd minute in Tehran left an excited Syrian TV commentator sobbing with happiness as he shouted his celebrations for two minutes.
As you can image the team is not without controversy, backed as it is by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who remains in power despite a conflict which has since killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions.
Al-Soma is rated as one of Asia’s best strikers, while fellow marksman Omar Khribin bagged a hat-trick for his Saudi club, Al Hilal, in their 4-0 win over Iran’s Persepolis in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final.
“It’s difficult for us to hold training camps abroad, or hold high-level friendly and warm-up matches.
“Arab and foreign experts predicted that we will be the weakest team in our group… All of these factors have had a positive impact on us. It nourished a defiant spirit, and we worked on the players’ psyche to fill the gaps of proper preparations and other things.”
Syria start as second-favourites against Australia, who have played the last three World Cups and reached the last 16 in 2006, losing controversially to eventual winners Italy.
The Socceroos missed out on automatic qualification on goal difference alone but they will be without their midfield talisman Mile Jedinak and have shown enough defensive frailty to give Syria hope.
“It’s a tough face-off with a strong Australian team known for its professional players and a style that differs from any team we have already faced,” al-Hakim said.
“There is no impossible in football and we have proven that… we have a chance to beat Australia.”
Only in football do you get stories like these. Politics and culture are so interwoven that we see some amazing moments, controversial match-ups, and proxy wars on the pitch.
When you have players within the team that support the rebels and others that support the dictator how can you overcome? Playing your "home" matches in another country, how do you find an advantage? Whatever you think of their leader, this team has spirit.