World Cup qualifying: How did Syria win 'most important match in their history'?

It was goalless after 90 minutes and Syria's dreams of qualifying for their first World Cup were fading fast.

Then Omar Kharbin converted a bold, Panenka-style stoppage-time penalty to earn victory over Uzbekistan and make an appearance at Russia 2018 a realistic goal.

Syria, in fourth, move within one point of their opponents in Asian Qualifying Group A. The top two qualify automatically, with the third-place side advancing to a continental play-off.

As we reported in Syria: Football on the frontline on Wednesday, the Syrians are playing their home fixtures at neutral venues, and Malaysia has been their "home" since last September.

BBC Sport's Richard Conway travelled to Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca to watch the game...


Richard Conway, BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent

With the hopes and dreams of a nation resting on his shoulders, Omar Kharbin opted to hit a Panenka-style penalty.

It was a truly bold decision given the risk and stakes involved.

But in a way it is entirely in keeping with the spirit and ethos of this Syrian team.

They believe they are playing for a higher purpose than simply qualifying for the World Cup, with the players determined to cast themselves as a symbol of unity.

It is, they feel, about giving the Syrian people something to cheer about as the war that has engulfed their country enters its seventh year.

The emotion poured out on the final whistle and the head coach, Ayman Hakeem, broke down in tears in the post-match press conference. Choking on his words he said this was a victory for the Syrian people.

The team will now fly to Seoul to take on South Korea on 28 March with renewed belief that the dream to make it to Russia 2018 can become a reality.

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