Meet Australia’s playoff opponent Syria

With Australia finishing third in Group B of AFC World Cup qualification overnight, they will now face the team that also finished third in Group A in the AFC playoff. That nation is the fast-finishing Syria.


Australia and Syria meet in the AFC playoff. It's over two legs in October. 

The winner then faces the nation that finished fourth in the CONCACAF qualifying group, which takes in North, Central and Caribbean countries.

Currently that's Honduras but it could also be Panama or even the USA.   


The Qasioun Eagles came almost from nowhere to stake a claim for the second automatic qualification spot in Group A, helped by the uncertain form of Korea Republic and Uzbekistan.

Indeed, it seemed that the challenge was over in March as Syria lost 1-0 in Seoul but the team has spirit. It shows that in a number of ways. One is by the number of late goals it scores.


Of course, the most recent and famous was the 93rd minute strike by Omar Al Soma that earned the team a 2-2 draw with Iran in Tehran in the early hours of Wednesday, a point that earned the team third.

In March Omar Khribin scored in injury-time to give Syria a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan  that kept the slim hopes alive yet still, none of the other teams were taking the threat so seriously. 

Then came another last-minute strike, even later, from Ahmad Al Salih to earn a 2-2 draw with China.

Still, ahead of the final two games in the group, the focus was on the battle for second between Korea Republic and Uzbekistan. Both those teams failed to win their penultimate games and then Syria defeated Qatar.

Another last-minute goal made it a 3-1 win and erased Korea Republic’s goal difference advantage. That meant that if Syria were to win in Iran in the final game and Korea failed to take three points in Uzbekistan then Syria would take second.

For a while it looked as if it would happen but Iran came back from a goal down to go into injury time 2-1 ahead before Al Soma intervened in injury-time.

It was another example of the team's work ethic especially against the bigger nations. In the four games against Iran and Korea Republic, Syria drew three and narrowly lost the other. It is a team that is not afraid to defend and to give everything in defending.

Syria booked third spot in Group A following a 2-2 draw with Iran.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and former Korea coach Uli Stielike found the games against Syria the most frustrating they had ever experienced as coaches.


In qualification, the team has tended to line-up in 4-2-3-1 and, from time to time, 4-4-2 and relies on its talented attackers to get the goals and its well-organised and hard-working defence to stop them going in.


So this is a team that never gives up but there is more. As most know, Syria does not play its home games at home, due to the ongoing conflict in the country.

In the second round of qualification, Oman was the venue. In this round, it has been Malaysia. Playing so far from  home in a deserted stadium has been tough yet somehow it has not stopped the West Asians from making it this far.

It is expected that Syria will make renewed efforts to stage the play-off much closer to home than Melaka but that remains to be seen.

Wherever the game is played, Syria will give Australia a tough test.

Unlike the other potential play-off opponents, Australia has little recent history with Syria, too.