Syria's World Cup hopes alive after miracle equalizer

In the midst of a long-running and ruinous war, millions of Syrians may finally have something to be joyful about.

Syria's incredible journey toward qualifying for their first ever World Cup was kept alive on Tuesday evening thanks to a nerve-shredding late goal against rivals Iran. Syrian hopes of qualifying for Russian Federation appeared to be lost until they scored an equaliser deep into added on time at the end of the game.

In Lippi's first competitive game in charge, China and Qatar played out a frustrating 0-0 draw in Kunming last November in what was only their second point in Group A. Japan will play two more friendlies in November ahead of the World Cup draw in December, when they will find out their first-round opponents in Russian Federation.

The goal secured a spot for Syria in the Asian play-offs towards a possible qualification for the World Cup 2018.

"But we wanted to make our voice heard by the officials".

But the stage to which the Syrian footballers have reached in the recent games is against all odds, with the difficulty of the training and the lack of good atmosphere with their country being ripped by a seven-year war.

The national team will play against Iran in Tehran on Tuesday.

At Al-Jalaa stadium in western Damascus, more than 3,000 people gathered to celebrate, many wearing the team's red and white colours, shouting "Syria".

Mansour Al-Harbi clipped the woodwork with a strike from a tight angle after a swift break down the left, but the frustrations of the home fans were beginning to build as Japan started to assume more control of the play.

Australia's World Cup qualifying path could include a home-and-away match against Syria if an automatic berth is not achieved.

Omar Al Soma's dramatic 93rd-minute goal leaves the nation one step away from their first tournament appearance despite six years of bitter fighting and population displacement wracking the country.

"Osako was not in the squad because I wanted to put fresh players in and give Okazaki and Sugimoto a chance".

A Syrian fan watches the game in Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta region.

But an opposition fighter in northern Syria who goes by the name of Abu Dardaa al-Shami said he has no respect for the national soccer team.

Elsewhere on social media, some Syrians questioned whether their pro-regime countrymen would be backing Iran, al-Assad's close ally. If the underdog emerges victorious, the final opponent will be the fourth-place team from CONCACAF, the confederation which includes Central and North America, with Honduras, Panama or the United States the current most likely opponents.

  • Julie Sanders