Against the backdrop of a devastating Syrian refugee crisis sweeping Europe, the war-ravaged country’s footballers will face Cambodia in a 2018 World Cup qualifiers Group E encounter at the Olympic Stadium today, determined to safeguard their unbeaten record and bring a modicum of relief to a population in turmoil.
It has not been easy for the players to cope with the often disturbing images of the plight of their fellow citizens but it is this deepening crisis that is also steeling their resolve to deliver good results on the pitch.
Head coach Fajr Ibrahim has led the country to a 6-0 thumping of Afghanistan in Tehran and 1-0 win over Singapore five days ago in Muscat to secure the top spot in the Group for Syria. He is in no doubt that his team will play their hearts out for the sake of tens of thousands of fellow citizens who have either paid with their lives or are going through tough times.
It took a late second half goal from Ode Jfal for Syria to subdue Singapore, who had caused the shock of the qualifying cycle by holding mighty Japan to a goal-less draw at the start of the group campaign.
As the Syrian coach made it plain during a media conference at the Football Federation of Cambodia, his side will be eager and determined to consolidate its group status ahead of its much anticipated run-in with Japan.
At about the time the Syrians were taming the Lions, Cambodia were going through fire hoops against Japan at the Saitama Stadium.
Coach Lee Tae Hoon’s men were completely in a bind, unable to break free from the Japanese stranglehold in that 3-0 defeat, the Kingdom’s third after a 4-0 thrashing by Singapore and a 1-0 loss to Afghanistan.
The South Korean strategist, who was instrumental in taking Cambodia past the first hurdle in World Cup qualification attempts for the first time in history, is hoping to see his side put up a more aggressive and competitive front against the visitors.
Coach Lee Tae Hoon (pictured, Sreng Meng Srun), while conceding the players for most part performed as if they were in a compression chamber against Japan, is striking a confident note that his players will show greater enterprise in this game.
“As past results clearly show, Syria are a very strong team and they are also ranked well above us, which means that we have a tough task on our hands.
We have learnt our lessons from the previous matches and I am hopeful that we can put up a good fight,” the Cambodia coach said.
This will be Cambodia’s fourth game in the first round and third home fixture.
Another sellout crowd is expected for this twilight treat at Olympic Stadium by the time the game kicks off at 6:30pm.