After a hard-fought stalemate in the first leg in Melaka, we’re down to a winner-takes-all contest in Sydney on Thursday night for one nation to stay alive on the Road to Russia 2018.
The Caltex Socceroos will fancy their chances of sealing progression on home soil but Syria showed in patches in Malaysia they have threats to be wary of come the second leg at Stadium Australia.
Here’s the three Syrian’s who were most dangerous in the first leg and must be stopped if Ange Postecoglou’s men will advance to the final stage of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
OMAR AL SOMA
The giant striker caused the Caltex Socceroos defence plenty of problems in Melaka, especially with his speed and movement off the ball.
While he was ultimately caught offside plenty of times, Al Soma – who has been the leading scorer in the Saudi Pro League the last three years – was a handful and ultimately won and scored the penalty to secure a 1-1 draw.
Nicknamed the “Arabian Zlatan”, Al Soma’s aerial ability, quick feet and strength from set pieces means Australia’s back-three must be on high-alert when he’s on the ball in Sydney on Tuesday night.
FIRAS AL KHATIB
It’s no surprise that the momentum started to swing in Syria’s favour on Thursday night when Al Khatib was introduced into the match in the second half.
The 34-year-old – regarded as one of Syria’s finest-ever players – added a real creative spark and set up a couple of great chances with his driving runs and clever passing.
He showed a great ability to find pockets of space between the lines and was great at linking the play with Syria’s speedy attackers.
Another of the second half substitutes which helped Syria get back into the contest in Melaka.
As the Caltex Socceroos defence tired in the humid conditions, Mardkian provided real purpose and positivity as Syria pushed forward after the break.
The 25-year-old has an eye for goal (scoring against Japan in a friendly in June) and he should be fresh to be unleashed from the start at Stadium Australia.