Syrian star Omar Al Somah not giving up on World Cup dream

Syria's football team still dreaming of 2018 World Cup
Syria's football team still dreaming of 2018 World Cup

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Syria's football team still dreaming of 2018 World Cup 00:44

Story highlights

  • Syria score late equalizer to book place in World Cup playoff
  • "We are confident," goalscorer Omar Al Somah tells CNN

(CNN)The entire Syrian team and coaching staff raced to one corner of the Azadi stadium, dancing in jubilation after a late, unlikely goal.

Some pounded the badge; others looked to the sky in thanks. Around 1,000 miles away, a chorus of car horns and cheers filled the streets of Damascus.
Star striker Omar Al Somah had scored a 93rd minute equalizer against Iran, keeping their dream of reaching the World Cup alive.
    The magnitude of that simple sporting moment, amid a six-year civil war, reduced one match commentator to tears.
    It means the Syrian team will face Australia for a chance to contest an intercontinental playoff against a team from the CONCACAF region -- potentially the United States.
    Win both, and Syria would qualify for football's biggest showpiece for the first time ever.
    Al Somah and his teammates had "Syria," rather than their names, emblazoned across the back of their jerseys for Tuesday's game.
    That they have even got this far is nothing short of a miracle.
    "Each and every one of us kept fighting until the end, until the last two minutes, despite all the circumstances our team was facing," goalscorer Al Somah told CNN.
    "We have everything we need for the game against Australia, we only need our fans' cheers and support."
    Al Somah, leading scorer in Saudi Arabia's top tier for the past three years, is one of many Syrian players who have left the domestic league to play abroad.
    His international teammates play their club football in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar and the Maldives.
    And the Al-Ahli striker believes the improved fortunes of the Syrian national team are partly down to this global exposure.
    "We are the best Syrian national team the country has had for the last 10 or 15 years," Al Somah told CNN.
    "All the players are professional international players, and everything seems to be going in the right direction."
    Australia, qualifiers for the last three World Cups, nonetheless present a major challenge. Due to the ongoing conflict, Syria is currently unable to host international football, playing the majority of its home fixtures in Malaysia.
    "Everyone knows the capabilities of the Australian team but we are also very confident about our players and what they can achieve," said Al Somah.
    "We are waiting to know where we are going to play the first leg and, by the will of god, you will see that our coach has prepared us. We are not afraid of anything."