Amid war, Syria hopes to reach World Cup for 1st time

Amid war, Syria hopes to reach World Cup for 1st time

The South Korean men's national football team celebrates with a banner on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup following a scoreless draw against Uzbekistan at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent on September 5, 2017.

Syria, despite playing their home games in Malaysia because of the war, now occupy the play-off spot after a win and a draw against China, wins over Uzbekistan and Qatar, and draws with South Korea and Iran.

With all its importance, the match in Iran was the country's chance to forget all about terrors of war albeit for a single glorious night of football success in its purest form.

After the final night of Asian qualifiers, South Korea and the Saudis joined Iran and Japan by sealing their trips to Russian Federation, while Syria and Australia finished third in their groups to go into the play-off series.

Substitute Fahad Al Muwallad scored a spectacular victor for Bert van Marwijk's side, who qualified for the first time since 2006 with victory over a Japan team that had already reached the Finals.

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Syria play their home games 5,000 miles away from wartorn Damascus in Malaysia. A country ravaged by war, which had defied so many odds to come so far, had added another leg to its already incredible journey.

As the nation descended into conflict, sports stadiums were trashed and numerous national team's players moved to Arab or Asian countries to play.

Opposition activists however are divided over the national team. "I was close to tears - never before have I felt so defeated and humiliated", said Nazar-Ahari in an interview. "All the coaching staff and players will do all they can to ensure we can the goals to win".

"I feel grateful that we reached the World Cup, but it's a shame that we couldn't win", Son said after the match against Uzbekistan. "I was only talking about the difficulties of the match. They are proud of their national team and of course they want to support the players during a big important tournament like the World Cup", she said. 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.