Sporting ecstasy for war-torn Syria as late goal keeps World Cup dream alive video

Syrians gathered in a square in Damascus to watch their national football team on a big screen celebrate the 2-2 draw ...
OMAR SANADIKI/ REUTERS

Syrians gathered in a square in Damascus to watch their national football team on a big screen celebrate the 2-2 draw with Iran.

War-torn Syria has enjoyed a rare moment of joy as their national football team scored a late-equaliser to keep their Fifa World Cup finals hopes alive.

Omar al-Soma scored the goal on Tuesday (NZT Wednesday) to clinch a 2-2 draw against Iran to put Syria through to a playoff against Australia, with the winner there to advance to a final World Cup qualifying tie against a North American or Caribbean team.

The goal in Tehran meant a lot to the team whose ecstatic on-field celebrations were matched by fans at home and the TV commentator.

Big screens had been set up in the Syrian capital Damascus for a public screening of the game. Thousands of football fans turned out to watch the national team which was made up of government-approved supporters.

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Iran, which clinched qualification for the World Cup in June, is a regional political ally of Syria that has provided crucial political and military support to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in the war.

The civil war, which began in 2011, has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people with the UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria saying more than 400,000 had lost their lives in the conflict. Unicef reported that over 500 children had been killed by early February 2012.

Australia's Socceroos will now play Syria in a two-leg tie. The first match on October 5 will be played at a yet-to-be announced neutral venue before the Syrian team travels to Australia for the return leg on October 10.

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 - AP

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