March 22, 2018

Syrian joy as World Cup dream lives on

07 September 2017, 02:08 | Francis Delgado

Korea advances to World Cup after playing Uzbekistan to 0-0 draw

Samvel Babayan head coach of the Uzbekistan men's national football team speaks at a press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent Uzbekistan on Sept. 4 2017 on the eve of his team's World Cup qualifier against South Korea

If they had won against Iran, Syria would have gone straight through.

"Our team is ready to achieve victory and qualify Syria for the first time to the World Cup", Muwaffaq Fathallah, the chief administrator of the Syrian team, said by telephone from the Iranian capital.

Going in to Tuesday night's last Round 3 qualifier, Syria could guarantee at least a playoff spot with a win, while the game between Uzbekistan and South Korea would also play a part in determining their fate.

Last week's 2-0 loss to Japan means the Socceroos are no longer in control of their qualifying hopes and face a high-pressure encounter against Thailand in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Stand-in captain Kim Yong-Gwon sparked anger and ridicule when he complained that teammates could not hear each other against Iran because of the noise made by 63,000 screaming fans in Seoul's World Cup stadium.

Coach Ange Postecoglou, who led Australia to the Asian Cup title in 2015, brushed off questions about his future while admitting he was "not everyone's cup of tea".

"My friend's mother told me to get a seat where the ball wouldn't hit my head", said Negin Bagheri.

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Trailing 2-1 against rivals Iran as injury time wicked away, it looked for all the world like the dream was over.

Ibrahim Shaker, who plays in Binnish's local football club, was less accommodating. "We have work to do, but we have nine months to prepare for the World Cup".

The former Bayer Leverkusen man said South Korea will make improvements in attack.

South Korea, initially considered one of the favorites of the current qualifying round, as a result of a number of misfires and does not justify the expectations placed on it.

If South Korea failed to qualify, the three broadcasters would reportedly have considered renegotiating the deal with Federation Internationale de Football Association.

Another called the performance against Uzbekistan lacklustre, adding that while watching they felt "as stuffy as if I had 100 sweet potatoes at one sitting without washing them down with water".

The national team is seen as a pro-government enterprise, although striker Firas al-Khatib once claimed he would never return to Syria until the Assad regime stops bombarding rebel-held areas.

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