We’re all aware of Syria’s current situation, and it’s horrible. However, their football spirit is very much still alive and their national team isn’t going to let any conflict soil their dreams of competing in National Football. Their qualifier win over Uzbekistan has put them a step closer to making an appearance at Russia 2018.
The match was a goal-less 90 minutes, that was until Omar Kharbin turned the tides in stoppage-time, Panenka-style. Syria’s victory over Uzbekistan has made their likelihood of making an appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia a realistic goal. This moves Syria within one point of their opponents in the Asian qualifying Group A, where they currently stand in fourth. The top two of the group will qualify, where the third place will advance to a continental play-off.
Syria haven’t been able to play at home due to economic sanctions as well as security fears, and Malaysia has acted as their “home” since September. The match was originally due to take place in the Rahman Stadium in Serembam but was ruled unavailable 72 hours beforehand. Instead, it took place at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca – a further 40 miles south of the Rahman Stadium and 4,500 miles from Syria’s home.
You’d think the audience would be near empty but fans for both sides still made the effort to come and support their teams and the resulting audience attendance summed up to about 350. The first half of the game saw Syria dominant in possession but no clear-cut chances arose. The team had only scored one goal in their previous five games during the third round of qualifying. It was the fouling of Firas al-Khatib that gave Syria their winning chance, as it resulted in their historic penalty.
I applaud Syria for getting this far, and I truly hope they get an appearance at Russia next year.