Sunday 10 September 2017

Syria v Australia WCQ venue

Due to its civil war, Syria plays its "home" football matches in neutral territory. This has been in Malaysia for Syria's last 5 home World Cup Qualifying matches.

Apparently there are rumours^ circulating about that Syria may choose Qatar (or at least somewhere other than their usual hood in Malaysia)* as its home venue for the first leg of its crucial Asian World Cup Qualifier against Australia, which is set to take place on 5 October 2017.

However this may not be a wise move.

Let's have a look at the following tables, which together set out Syria's home and away performances.

Syria’s home performances @ Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Stadium, Seramban, Malaysia and Hang Jebat Stadium (HJS), Krubong, Malaysia

0-0 vs South Korea (TAR)

0-0 vs Iran (TAR)

1-0 vs Uzbekistan (HJS)

2-2 vs China (HJS)

3-1 vs Qatar (HJS)

Syria’s away performances

1-0 vs Uzbekistan
0-1 vs China

1-0 vs Qatar

1-0 vs South Korea

2-2 vs Iran

Syria is very strong at their home away from home in Malaysia. They were undefeated to all teams in the third round of qualifying. They drew 0-0 to South Korea and Iran at home!

Even when they have lost on the road they have never been thrashed, only ever losing 1-0. The upside I suppose is that they can be defeated on the road.

Back in the second round of qualifying (late 2015 and early 2016) the Syrians lost 0-3 to Japan when they used the Al-Seeb Stadium in Seeb, Oman for their "home matches." Being thrashed in one match, especially to a strong Japanese side, is probably not a good indication of  how comfortable a team is with using a particular stadium as its home venue. That said, Syria did win every game apart from their games to Japan though - they lost 5-0 to Japan in Saitama stadium. So perhaps they were somewhat comfortable with using an Omani stadium.

However, if I was the Syrian FA I would want the matches to continue in Malaysia because of how good their recent performances have been - I mean why would you change a good thing? I guess one downside is that a trip to KL is closer than a trip to Doha for Socceroos fans - the Syrians may want less Socceroos supporters.

Eg. the distance from Sydney to KL is 6,611km and the distance from Sydney to Doha is 12,375km; whereas the distances from the Arab part of the world to Doha is considerably shorter (around 2,000 kilometres).

That said, it appears that the indecisiveness over the venue appears to be an issue of providing adequate accommodation and training facilities for the Socceroos. Those two stadiums, HJS and TAR, apparently are lacking such facilities*.

At any rate it looks like Syria have improved rapidly since late 2015 and are more than capable of toughing out narrow wins or draws. 

Add to this the fact that Syria is basically the darling Cinderella of World Cup Qualifying, a major underdog that everyone will be cheering on. Also consider the fact that the Syrian players will desperately want to qualify for the people of their wartorn homeland. Adversity can bring out the best and worst in people. Think of Syria as a more advanced, battle-hardened Thailand or Iraq.

My conclusion is that Syria is a dangerous match-up where away goals could certainly come into the picture.

Andre Lim
"But their last five games have been played in Malaysia, at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman stadium and more recently the Hang Jebat venue some three hours from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Both are seen as poor-quality venues, while Hang Jebat is in an area lacking hotels of the sort that the Syrian FA are obliged to book for the Socceroos.

Finding suitable training facilities for the Australians may also prove problematic, with the option of training elsewhere and then flying in the day beforehand likely to be considered."

^I don't know where the rumours have come from but here is a secondary source:

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