Cambodia’s historic journey through previously unchartered territory in the World Cup qualifying cycle ended late on Thursday night with a 6-0 blowout at the hands of a rugged Syrian side in a Group E clash at the sparsely filled Al-Seeb Stadium in Muscat.
There were around 100 home fans in the 14,000 capacity stadium watching a physically superior Syria ruthlessly exploit a rickety Cambodian defence to record an impressive scoreline, identical to the one they had delivered at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium in their first leg clash on September 8 last year.
But for millions of war-ravaged Syrians, the national team’s sixth win out of seven outings came as a silver lining in nearly four years of gloom and doom.
The victory left Syria just one point behind leaders Japan as the two sides head for a massive showdown tomorrow at Tokyo’s Saitama Stadium to decide the group toppers, who will be assured of a ticket to the 12-team third round to be played between in August and September of next year.
As Cambodia returned home empty-handed with eight defeats in the five-team group phase, Syria left Muscat in a celebratory mood, their place in the third round likely secure even if they fail to get the revenge against Japan for the first leg 3-0 defeat.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up make the next phase. While Japan have already clinched their third round spot no matter what the result tomorrow, Syria’s record holds up very well among the second placed teams.