Preview: Caltex Socceroos vs Syria
One nation’s World Cup hopes will come to an abrupt end on Tuesday night when Australia host Syria in their second leg Asian Qualifier Playoff. It’s well and truly make or break time.
This year Australia have faced must-win matches and crunch clashes, but this takes it to a whole other level – it’s either the Socceroos or Syria will continue on the Road to Russia 2018 by late Tuesday night at Sydney Olympic Park.
The drama of cut-throat World Cup qualification is something Australian fans tasted 12 years ago in the Uruguay World Cup qualifier.
It’s time again for that kind of drama and nail-biting tension.
THE STORY SO FAR
Australia finished third in their AFC World Cup qualification group B. The top two nations qualified automatically from groups A and B.
The two third placed nations – Australia and Syria – were drawn in a two-legged playoff qualifier.
The winner of this AFC tie will meet the fourth-placed nation in the CONCACAF group from Central America.
That group is still being finalised but Panama is looming as the potential nation that could meet the AFC winner.
In the AFC first leg in neutral Malaysia last Thursday night, Australia and Syria drew 1-1 in hot and steamy conditions on a tough pitch.
Australia took a lead in the first half through Robbie Kruse. A penalty awarded to Syria was converted by striker Omar Al Soma.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
· If the score is 0-0, Australia will progress on the away goals rule.
· If the score is 1-1 after regulation time, extra time will be played. There will be a penalty shootout if the score remains the same.
· If the score is 2-2 or higher (3-3, 4-4 etc) after regulation time or at the end of extra time, Syria will progress on the away goals rule.
· If Australia defeats Syria in regulation time or after extra time, they’ll progress.
· If Syria defeats Australia in regulation time or after extra time, they’ll progress
THE FINAL WORD
The second leg is the crucial one. Yes, the first leg is important but it’s in the return game that the fate of each nation is decided. And Australia will be hoping their phenomenal home record in World Cup qualifiers – they were last defeated in such a game in 2008 – will be the key.
A big home crowd, good pitch and comfortable weather conditions will be appreciated.
Syria will play with all the emotion and passion you’d expect. And their fans will be loud and very vocal.
But so should the home fans.
Qualifying for a World Cup is still the Holy Grail and with this in mind, the Australians will need to be at their very best to pass this tricky test. Syria will give it their all. The Socceroos will need to match their intensity and desire if they wish to remain in with a chance of playing in next year's World Cup.