Syria keep World Cup hopes alive

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Mohamad’s opener sparked wild celebrations from the Syrian players

Syria claimed a play-off spot in 2018 World Cup qualifying following a 2-2 draw against Iran in Tehran.

The visitors took a shock lead through Tamer Haj Mohamad’s stooping header – the first goal Carlos Queiroz’s Iran had conceded in 10 qualifying games.

But on the stroke of half-time, Sardar Azmoun headed Iran level before giving them a second-half lead.

Syria looked to be heading out, but Omar Al Somah coolly slotted home an equaliser deep in injury time.

South Korea’s goalless draw with Uzbekistan allowed them to claim second place in Group A in the Asian section and automatic progression to Russia.

It means Syria will face either Australia or Saudi Arabia in a play-off in October, before having to face a Concacaf side in another two-legged tie the following month for a place at the World Cup.


BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent Richard Conway:

The dream of Russia 2018 is still alive. They are into a play-off now.

We went over to Syria for BBC Sport earlier in the year and spent six days in Damascus and discovered a truly remarkable story.

Syria is in the middle of a six-year war and the team have no money because of the sanctions. Lots of Syrians have mixed emotions about supporting the team. Some, but by no means all, feel that the team rises above politics.

The fact they are in contention for the World Cup is remarkable given what is stacked against them and they have a remarkable team spirit.

They play their home games in Malaysia, which is a 14,000-mile round trip, and where they will play the home leg of their play-off match.

Thousands of Syria fans watched the match on a big screen at the Al-Jalaa stadium in Damascus

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