AFC Asian Cup, know your opponents: Syria football team
Coached by Argentine head coach Hector Cuper, Syria are making their seventh appearance in the tournament and will face India on Tuesday.
The Indian football team is on the verge of concluding its AFC Asian Cup 2023 group stage campaign with a crucial encounter against Syria at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday. The significance of this match cannot be overstated, as it involves the bottom two teams from Group B battling it out for the third spot.
India, having faced defeats against Australia and Uzbekistan, is aiming to secure a win, while Syria, also winless in their first two games, looks to clinch a victory after a draw against Uzbekistan and a defeat to Australia.
The contest becomes even more intense considering that four of the third-placed teams will advance to the next round. Both teams will be eager to secure a win and progress in the tournament, making the battle for the third place a focal point of this encounter.
Syria, despite being winless, has proven to be a formidable opponent. Currently, the third-highest ranked team in their group after Australia and Uzbekistan, Syria has displayed resilience, conceding just once across two matches. This solid defensive record poses a significant challenge for India, who are yet to find the back of the net at the AFC Asian Cup.
With the stage is set for a riveting battle, let's delve into the history and background of the Syrian national football team.
The Syrian Football Federation was established in 1936, and since 1969, they have been a part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). While they have participated in the AFC Asian Cup six times previously, their journey has been restricted to the group stages.
Notably, Syria has also competed in other prestigious competitions, finishing as runners-up thrice in the Arab Cup and emerging as winners in the West Asian Football Federation Championship in 2012. Despite never qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, they reached the fourth round qualification in 2018. The team is currently under the guidance of coach Hector Cuper, known for his previous stints with clubs like Inter Milan and Valencia.
Entering the AFC Asian Cup with less-than-ideal form, Syria has managed to win only three of their 10 matches since 2023. These matches include the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers and various international friendlies.
One notable setback was a heavy 0-5 defeat to Japan in a FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier game. Their last victory came in November 2023 against North Korea, recording a 1-0 win.
India and Syria share a noteworthy history on the football pitch, having faced each other since 2007. Their first encounter took place at the Nehru Cup, marking the beginning of a rivalry that has seen a total of six matches. Both teams have secured two wins each during these encounters. The last meeting between the two sides was in 2019 during the Intercontinental Cup, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Ousou has emerged as a defensive rock for Syria, playing a crucial role in their impressive defensive record in the tournament. Notably, he has made the most number of clearances so far. Currently plying his trade in the Swedish top tier with BK Hacken on loan from Czech club Slavia Prague, Ousou's confidence on the ball and physical presence make him a formidable force. His journey includes representing Sweden at the youth and senior levels before switching allegiance to Syria.
Similar to Ousou, Ramadan has been a consistent presence in Syria's starting lineup at the AFC Asian Cup. Operating as the creative spark in the team's midfield, he excels in picking up teammates and navigating the ball in tight spaces. The 23-year-old made his debut for the national team in 2022 and currently plays in the Slovakian top-division club for Dunajska Streda.
A key player in Syria's attacking lineup, Sabbag poses a significant threat upfront. Starting in both of their matches ahead of Omar Khribin, he has showcased his all-round game and came close to scoring against Australia with a shot that hit the post.
Sabbag is proficient not only in holding the ball and creating space for teammates but also in providing an aerial threat in the box. The Colombian-born player seamlessly integrated into the team after receiving a call-up in 2024 and has experience of playing in leagues across Colombia, Portugal, and Argentina.