05/03/2024
Syria will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for the first time in their history. PHOTO: Syrian FA

Syria will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for the first time in their history. PHOTO: Syrian FA

Drawn with Australia, Uzbekistan, and India in Group B ahead of this month’s Asian Cup, Syria will aim to progress past the first round for the first time in their history.

A nation that has suffered incredible adversity over the years, could this finally be the year over 21 million Syrians can rejoice with some sporting success?

Listen to the A-Leagues of Our Own podcast for a full preview of all three of Australia’s group stage opponents.

History

This will be Syria’s seventh appearance at the Asian Cup, failing to reach the knockout stage in all six previous attempts.

A member of the AFC Confederation since 1969, Syria has been viewed as a footballing nation that over the years has not maximised its potential due to economic reasons and suffering through civil war.

Syria has also never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, meaning the Asian Cup is the only major tournament the country has experienced throughout their existence.

Syria has suffered two defeats in their past three meetings with Australia since 2017 and picked up a solitary draw.

The two nations faced off during the playoffs for the 2017 FIFA World Cup, as two Tim Cahill goals broke Syrian hearts in the second leg, requiring extra time.

They also clashed in the group stage of the 2019 Asian Cup, with the Socceroos needing a last-gasp winner from Tom Rogic in the 90th minute to win 3-2.

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Recent form

Syria have recently picked up three wins, four defeats and a draw, with one of those defeats coming in a 5-0 loss against Japan in a World Cup qualifier last month.

They currently sit equal second in their World Cup qualifying group, helped by their narrow 1-0 win against North Korea.

Only two clean sheets have been achieved in Syria’s past 16 outings dating back to September 2022.

Syria are not going to expose themselves an awful deal going forward, even if they do go a goal down.

Usually, they are resolute defensively and don’t want to give much away, so expect the central defensive partnership of Thaer Krouma and Omar Midani to prove pivotal in terms of how far they challenge themselves.

It is predicted that they come into this group with the mentality of soaking up as much pressure as possible and hitting on the counter-attack.

However, the lack of pace up front could prove to be their downfall in capitalising on the opposition’s mistakes.

Once they do get a couple of chances, they can’t afford to miss out because opportunities in front of goal won’t come easy with the little amount of possession they’re expected to retain.

This could pose a potential challenge for the Socceroos to play their way through that deep defensive line.

Players to watch

Centre-forward Omar Khribin who plays his football in the UAE and has 21 goals in 55 caps for his country will be one to keep an eye out for Graham Arnold and the Socceroos.

Although not the quickest, the 29-year-old is a clinical poacher inside the penalty area.

Another one also worth highlighting is Argentinian-born midfielder Jalil Elías who has played in the Argentinian Super League for his whole career.

Now 27, the defensive-minded midfielder just moved to the Malaysian League and is very aggressive player who won’t be scared to commit challenges and break up the play.

Manager in focus

Syria are coached by an Argentinian by the name of Héctor Cúper.

The 68-year-old is a very experienced tactician having coached the likes of Valencia, Parma, as well Inter Milan and guided them to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

Prediction

India may represent Syria’s best chance of a victory in the group stage. Then, a point against either the Aussies or Uzbekistan to get themselves to four points may just see them sneak into the knockout stages.




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