Syria continued their improbable dream of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup with a last-gasp 2-2 draw in Iran to seal a play-off spot in the Asian Football Confederation section.
Ayman Hakeem’s side performed incredibly against the backdrop of the six-year long civil war in their homeland to remain in the reckoning on the final matchday in round three of AFC qualifying, although they looked to have fallen short until Omar Al Soma pounced in the 93rd minute in Tehran.
The result means Syria finish third in Group A, behind group winners Iran and South Korea, who have qualified automatically for the finals.
Uzbekistan found themselves on the wrong side of the fairytale, with Al Soma’s strike eliminating them on goal difference.
Syria – who have played their “home” qualifiers during the campaign in Malaysia – will face Australia in next month’s play-off after Saudi Arabia beat Group B winners Japan to claim that section’s second automatic qualification spot.
The winner of the two-legged encounter will then face the fourth-placed side from the CONCACAF final round in November’s intercontinental play-off for a place in Russia.
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) September 5, 2017
Tamer Mohamad gave Syria a 13th-minute lead, becoming the first player to score against Iran in a World Cup qualifier for 1,121 minutes.
Sardar Azmoun levelled for Iran on the stroke of half-time after Ibrahim Alma tipped Mehdi Taremi’s header on to the bar, and the Rubin Kazan forward doubled his tally in the 64th minute when Taremi flicked on Ehsan Haji Safi’s long throw.
But Al Soma held his nerve to slide a finish underneath Alireza Salimi deep into stoppage time and prompt wild celebrations on the touchline.
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