March 22, 2018

Tim Cahill brace puts end to Syria's World Cup dream

11 October 2017, 12:25 | Pamela Mathis

Weakened Syria eye World Cup upset

Energy-sapping Tomi Juric gets a shot away despite the attentions of Hadi Almasri in the World Cup play-off Malacca

The Socceroos were expected to make short work of the team ranked 75th in the world following last week's first leg, which was held in Malaysia and ended in a 1-1 draw.

Omar Al Soma put the visiting team into the lead just six minutes into the match but Tim Cahill scored for Australia seven minutes later.

With no further goals in the 90 minutes the game went to extra-time and, after Mahmoud Al Mawas was dismissed for his second bookable offence, Australian pressure finally paid off as Cahill headed home in the 109th minute to break Syrian hearts.

A team from a war-ravaged country, organised on a shoe-string budget, who have played all their fixtures outside their homeland, and ranked 75 in the world, was on the verge of qualifying for the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup finals.

"It doesn't matter who we play next".

This Tuesday, October 10, 2017 (2:00 AM Pacific) Australia will host Syria at the Stadium Australia in Sydney for the second-leg of the fourth round of the AFC qualifiers. Robbie Kruse found space on the left-edge of the box and crossed for Cahill to head in his 50th worldwide goal for Australia.

Who else but Cahill could come up with such heroics?

Postecoglou says the 37-year-old is undoubtedly the country's best player in history and was amazed with the way he performed over 120 hard minutes against a stubborn Syria side, who nearly snatched an away-goals victory in the dying seconds through an Al Soma free-kick that hit the post.

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Inside the ground, a group in the Australian section of the ground unfurled a smuggled banner with the words "Free Syria", a revolutionary slogan, which was confiscated by stewards.

Robbie Kruse chipped the ball back into the box after being found by substitute Aaron Mooy and Cahill leapt high above his marker to nod the ball past Alma's despairing dive.

In the first leg of their two-legged Asian qualifying finals against Australia, the Syrians scored an unlikely late equalizer on a penalty.

Socceroos fans will hope that such a managerial blunder won't cost them in the inter-continental playoff against Panama, Honduras or the United States.

Australia midfielder Mark Milligan said the next round will be tough.

The Terriers midfielder started on the bench but was introduced after just 10 minutes after Bournemouth utility man Brad Smith picked up a suspected hip injury.

The Syrian team has been on a remarkable run despite being forced to play all its games in other countries.

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