0451 GMT January 25, 2022
Iran will take on Syria at the World Cup Asian qualifiers in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday, knowing a victory will put the Asian powerhouse within touching distance of a place in next year’s showdown in Qatar.
Dragan Skocic’s men lead Group A of the qualifiers with 13 points – two clear of South Korea and eight above third-placed Lebanon – and a win on Tuesday will see them needing five points to secure a top-two finish and an automatic qualification with four games to spare.
Sardar Azmoun and Ahmad Nourollahi scored in the stoppage time as Iran salvaged a 2-1 away victory over Lebanon last time out in the group, while Syria played to a 1-1 draw against Iraq.
Should Iran walk away with the maximum points and Lebanon fail to beat the UAE at home on Tuesday, a victory over Iraq in Tehran on January 27 will clinch a third successive qualification for Iran.
The head-to-head history is on Iran’s side against Tuesday’s opponent as Syria – sitting bottom of the group with two points – has only claimed one win in the previous 29 encounters between the two – back in 1973.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s second-half strike saw Iran beat Syria 1-0 on the first day of the final group phase of the qualifiers at the Azadi Stadium.
The Iranian skipper, however, will serve a one-match suspension on Tuesday after receiving a second yellow card in the group against Lebanon on Thursday.
Porto’s prolific striker Mehdi Taremi will also miss the game after being omitted from the squad over a falling-out with the Croatian manager.
Syrian talisman Omar Khribin is also out injured, with Omar al-Somah leading the frontline for Syria – which has only managed two victories in 12 outings in 2021.
Elsewhere in the group, Iraq will play against South Korea in Doha, Qatar.
Group B leader Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, will be looking for a fifth win in six when playing away to Vietnam in Hanoi, with China and second-placed Australia squaring off in Sharjah, the UAE.
Japan will hope to come out victorious against Oman in Muscat to keep the hopes of an automatic qualification alive.
Branko Ivankovic’s men stunned the Samurai Blue with a 1-0 triumph in the reverse fixture in September.