Football: Syria to host World Cup play-off against Australia in Malaysia
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Football: Syria to host World Cup play-off against Australia in Malaysia

SYRIA have confirmed they will host the first leg of their FIFA World Cup Asian play-off against Australia on October 5 in Malaysia.

Syria, who have played all of their ‘home’ qualifiers in Malaysia since FIFA banned them from hosting matches in their war-torn country, have never qualified for the World Cup finals.

Victory over Australia in the two-legged tie – the second leg of which will take place at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on October 10 – would send Syria into a further play-off.

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They or Australia will have to negotiate a way past the fourth-placed side from the North and Central American qualifying group – a spot currently occupied by United States – to book their place in Russia next summer.

Syria’s clash with Australia will be their fifth straight ‘home’ match at Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca, the 40,000-capacity home stadium of Malaysia Super League side Melaka United.

The Syrians have previously used Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium in Seremban and venues in Oman for ‘home’ matches.

They have an unbeaten record at Hang Jebat Stadium, having won three and drawn one of their four matches, including a 3-1 win over Qatar in their most recent game there in August.

While Southeast Asia will host the Syria-Australia World Cup play-off match, no teams from the region remain in the running to qualify for Russia next year.

However, nine of the 11 ASEAN teams have improved their FIFA ranking in the past month.

Only Thailand, who dropped seven places to 137th, and Malaysia, who stayed in joint 166th, did not improve.

Philippines (123rd), Vietnam (130th), Myanmar (152nd), Singapore (162nd), Laos (=166th), Indonesia (169th), Cambodia (172nd), Brunei (186th) and Timor-Leste (192nd) have all climbed the rankings. – Reuters.