War-torn Syria keep World Cup hopes alive

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –


Omar Kharbin struck twice as war-torn Syria gave their 2018 World Cup dreams a huge boost with a 3-1 win over Qatar in Melaka, Malaysia, on Tuesday.

The result propelled Syria, forced to play all their home games in Malaysia because of the civil war back home, to third position in Group A and a potential playoff spot.

The Syrians took advantage of Uzbekistan's slip-up as they lost 1-0 in China to leapfrog the Uzbeks into the playoff picture on goal difference.

The result ended Qatar's fleeting hopes of qualifying for Russia 2018 and means the tiny Middle East nation will host the 2022 edition without ever having managed to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Syria made their intentions clear early on and Kharbin gave his side the lead with his seventh-minute strike, a swerving finish past the outstretched arms of Saad Al Sheeb after the Qatar defence failed to close him down.

Ten minutes before half-time, Qatar levelled the scores through midfielder Ali Asadallah, who netted from close range after converting a cross from captain Hassan Al Haydos.

After the restart, Kharbin made it 2-1 when he ran on to a through ball from Mahmoud Al Maowas before finishing from a tight angle.

Al Maowas then completed the scoring with a strike of his own after a quick counter attack in added time after the 90 minutes.

The win takes Syria to third place in Group A, two points behind second-placed South Korea, but the Syrians face a tough final match at runaway group winners Iran in Tehran on Tuesday.