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Iran 2 - 2 Syria, Syria stumbles onto next round of qualifications

Published: Updated:

The World Cup 2018 qualifier between Iran and Syria kicked off, with only 13 minutes passing before Syria's Tamer Haj Mohammad scored his sides first goal, after a deflection off a freekick.

Iran, however, equalized at the end of the first half through Sardar Azmoun - thus leaving the score at 1 - 1 for all at the end of the half.

Azamoun scored a second at the 66th minute to give the Iranians the lead at 2-1.

Omar Al Somah scored a last minute equalizer, ending the game at 2 - 2. This leaves the Syrians playing in the 4th round of the qualifiers.

Iranian national team coach Carlos Queiroz has stressed that his team will not ease up against Syria despite having already qualified for a fifth World Cup appearance.

“To think that these players are going to make it easy against Syria is to not know them, their professionalism, character and pride serving the Iranian nation,” said Queiroz.

Syria, against all odds, have overcome more than six years of civil war and internal political rifts to raise hopes of qualifying for their first ever World Cup.

The two teams drew in November last year in a match that raised many questions. The game, which was played on a subpar swampy pitch, raised no criticism from the Iranian side, which appeared to have chosen to make it easy for their opposition.

The timing of the game was critical as an Iranian-Assad regime blitz of Aleppo was ongoing where at least 87 people, including four children, were killed.

A win away to Iran on Tuesday coupled with defeat or draw for South Korea by Uzbekistan in the final round would give Syria second spot and direct entry to the finals next year.

If Iran repeat their November feat that two footballing nations which are allies at war may reach the finals together next year in Russia, who is their third ally in the six-year conflict.

Even if results do not entirely go their way, Syria can still hold onto third spot and have a chance to qualify through two rounds of playoffs and potentially face off with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi’s who are in second place in Group B, with 16 points, ahead of third-placed Australia face off with Japan on Tuesday. A win guarantees qualification provided that Australia's win over Thailand is no bigger than a 2-0 win.

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) play football on a street in Raqqa, Syria June 26, 2017. (Reuters)
Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) play football on a street in Raqqa, Syria June 26, 2017. (Reuters)

Ticket to Russia

Carlos Queiroz’s team have been imperious, booking their Russia ticket in June, but the Syrians are bolstered by the return of Al Soma, a player who could turn the tide in their favor.

Syria’s most celebrated footballer due to his goal scoring exploits with Saudi club Al Ahli, Al Soma celebrated his return with victory over Qatar. “Thanks to God, my return to the national team was good,” he said after the game. “I hope that we can bring joy to our people, who need such joy.

“I will give my best in the next match in order to win and hopefully we can qualify for the World Cup.” Along with the in-form Khrbin, who struck twice against the Qataris, Syria could have the tools to unlock Iran's stingy defense.

Asian football is no stranger to war-affected nations making a big impact. Iraq won their first Asian Cup in 2007, at the height of the insurgency triggered by the United States-led coalition invasion in 2003.

(Reuters)