Against all odds: Syria soccer team advances in FIFA World Cup qualifying

by WorldTribune Staff, June 23, 2016

Syria’s national soccer team, known as the Qasioun Eagles, has defied the odds to advance to the third round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

With their country devastated by civil war and widespread humanitarian crises, the Qasioun Eagles won six games in the second round of the Asian qualifying campaign. And the Syrian team did it all without playing a “home” game. Due to security concerns, all games hosted by Syria are held in Beirut, Lebanon.

Syria's Omar Kharbin, left, hugs a teammate after scoring a goal. /AFP
Syria’s Omar Kharbin, left, hugs a teammate after scoring a goal. /AFP

“Syria surprised everyone in the qualifiers, when you take into account the current situation in the country,” midfielder Abdelrazaq Al-Hussain told FIFA.com.

“Our positive results played a role in the impressive progress that we’ve made in the rankings table. Those wins came down to determination, strong performances from the players who play abroad, and the continuation of the domestic league despite all the problems.”

In March of 2015, Syria was ranked 152nd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking – the lowest position in the nation’s history. Since then, the Qasioun Eagles have defeated Singapore, Afghanistan and Cambodia twice each and jumped to 101st in the rankings, their highest ranking since civil war broke out in Syria.

Syria now advances to the third round of World Cup qualifying and joins Iran, Korea Republic, Uzbekistan and Qatar in Group A of the third round of Russia 2018 qualifiers.

“All of the teams that have qualified for the third round are strong, although some are better than others,” continued Al-Hussain. “To be honest, our team is capable of upsetting anyone, as long as we prepare well. We have to arrange several friendlies against high-quality opponents, to get rid of the inferiority complex we have when we play the Iranians and Koreans, the big teams in the group.”

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