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Syria's World Cup hopes alive after miracle equalizer
by Paul Kennedy, September 5th, 2017 8:22PM
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TAGS:  world cup 2018

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Syria, which has never played in the World Cup, kept its hopes alive with a dramatic 2-2 tie at ally Iran, getting the tying goal in the 93rd minute.

The war-torn country finished third in Asia's Group A behind Iran and South Korea. It will face Australia, third in Group B behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, in a playoff in October.

That playoff winner will face the fourth-place team in Concacaf in November, setting up the possibility -- still a ways off -- of a USA-Syria battle for a ticket to Russia 2018. That's right, the USA against one of the six countries on President Donald Trump's travel ban list.

(After the USA's 1-1 tie with Honduras, its chances of finishing third in World Cup qualifying and avoiding -- at best -- a playoff or -- at worst -- elimination -- are looking better.)

Omar al-Soma, who had not played for Syria in five years, returned from Saudi Arabia and was the hero with the tying goal. He was immediately mobbed by his teammates on the field and bench.

Back in Syria, the victory set off wild celebrations and fireworks, at least among supporters of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Arabic hashtag, which translates as #Yes_We_Can, trended on Twitter.

AP reported some fans labeled the team Assad's team, not theirs, and others showed photos of soccer players killed in the civil war.

Not all players were clearly pro-government supporters. Striker Firas al-Khatib, who started against Iran, spent five years in exile and was seen attending pro-opposition events.

Al-Khatib, who now plays for a team in Homs, was one of only four domestic-based players in the starting lineup. The rest play for teams in China, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.

Syria, which has been playing its qualifiers in Malaysia because FIFA won't let it play at home because of the hostilities, has never come this close to qualifying before.

In World Cup 2014 qualifying, it was disqualified after the first round for fielding a player, George Mourad, who had played for Sweden's U-21 team and had not petitioned FIFA to switch national teams.


12 comments
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 6, 2017 at 4:42 a.m.
    Never saw Syria play but have seen Iran play. They had pretty good teams. They scored on counters and got everyone back on defense. That is how they beat us when they played us. Personally I like that way to play. Also like the way Turkey plays the game. They have beat us as well. Howard was in goal for that game the Turks love inside combination play using vertical and horizontal square passes. Howard at that time did not recognize what they were doing until it was too late to stop it and they scored and won that game.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: September 6, 2017 at 10:06 a.m.
    Wrong. Syria has reached this stage once before. In 1985, they played Iraq for the final ticket on West Asia. Syria drew at home 1-1 and then they lost away 1-3 and Iraq qualified to Mexico 86.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 1:39 p.m.
    What did I say that was wrong. I said Iran played a pretty good game I also said turkey played a good game. Finally I said they both beat the US. So what was wrong about it?
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 6, 2017 at 9:16 p.m.
    Somethings rotten in Denmark or is that Iran? Did Iran let thier friends from Syria score the goal knowing that a tie keeps them going for a chance at the WC?
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: September 7, 2017 at 4:47 a.m.
    Craig, you are wrong on this one. Do you know that if Syria won the game, they would have qualify directly instead of South Korea? Iran played hard all game. If they want to help Syria, they would have let them score another goal and make them qualify directly instead of going through the play-off.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 8, 2017 at 8:52 p.m.
    Thanks GK, I did not know that.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 1:50 p.m.
    Since we are talking about Syria. Remember when we invaded Iraq because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction. Well they did World War 1 mustard gas. You know why it was not found in Iraq? When the Russians left Iraq they took it with them. No one checked what was in there trucks right. Where did those Russian trucks go they went to Syria. I do I know that's true Russians told me. The Russians that told me had no reason to lie. Where did they tell me in a Russian restraunt near brightton beach that I have been going to for years. Who are those Russians not military but the guys that actually run Russia. So that stuff was actually in Iraq.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 10:49 p.m.
    Gus I might be wrong but I read the same theory in the LA Times this morning. Of course the coach of Iran denies everything. I will talk with my Persian friends about this.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 9, 2017 at 11:04 p.m.
    Nick I will also talk to my friend from Turkey about your great believes in turkish soccers play.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: September 11, 2017 at 1:23 p.m.
    I have know and like the Turkish population here in Brooklyn for decades. They have their own clubs here. No youth teams so I would take them and train their kids and put them on club teams here. They just had adult clubs here. This is something you don't know. One club house was right near a public HS. I ask them why do you even have a club house you can run one team from your home and get a permit to play on that field. Then he told me the Turkish government pays the rent for their club house. Every heard of a government paying for that? Plus I used to do business with the Turks in Germany and with some in turkey years ago.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 13, 2017 at 10:50 p.m.
    No Nick I have not heard of this from Samer AKA Soccer Sam I will ask him about this. cheers.
  1. Craig Cummings
    commented on: September 13, 2017 at 11:11 p.m.
    Nick Soccer Sam says he believes this.

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