Syria must slay the gi­ant killers of Jor­dan and ig­nite cam­paign

Sport360 - - 2019 Asian Cup - By Bren­don Netto @Bren­don Netto ✉ bren­don­[email protected]

Syria go into their sec­ond Group B fix­ture in the Asian Cup on Thurs­day in des­per­ate need of a win.

Bernd Stange’s side were left frus­trated by a valiant Pales­tine dis­play in their goal­less opener, but beat­ing Jor­dan is in no way a fore­gone con­clu­sion.

The Jor­da­ni­ans pulled off what might go down as the up­set of the tour­na­ment when they de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia 1-0 on Sun­day.

Jor­dan on a high

Just how big a re­sult Jor­dan’s win over Aus­tralia was can­not be em­pha­sised enough. Beat­ing the Asian Cup hold­ers in their open­ing match was as shock­ing as it was im­pres­sive. Yes, they en­dured long spells with­out the ball - Aus­tralia had 70 per cent of pos­ses­sion in the first half - but did well to restrict the num­ber of clear-cut chances af­forded to the Soc­ceroos.

No­tably, they closed down the Aussies in mid­field with real tenac­ity and al­ways of­fered a threat on the break. Head coach Vi­tal Borkel­mans will hope their sky-high con­fi­dence helps them repli­cate that per­for­mance when they face Syria.

Syr­ian stars must strike

Syria boast a for­mi­da­ble front pair in strik­ers Omar Khrbin and Omar Al Soma but nei­ther could find the tar­get against an in­fe­rior Pales­tine side who for the fi­nal 22 min­utes were down to 10 men fol­low­ing Mo­hammed Saleh’s dis­missal. The duo are among the most threat­en­ing for­ward pair­ings in Asia but cap­tain Al Soma - three-time win­ner of the Saudi Pro­fes­sional League Golden Boot - had a day to for­get in their Group B opener.

The Al Ahli striker cut a frus­trated fig­ure as he was of­ten crowded out in the fi­nal third. Khrbin on the other hand sprung into life in patches and was at the cen­tre of his side’s best op­por­tu­ni­ties but ul­ti­mately couldn’t find the tar­get. Syria need to get their star strik­ers fir­ing against Jor­dan.

Al Mawas boost

Given that Jor­dan will look to em­u­late Pales­tine’s de­fen­sive low­block and frus­trate Syria’s at­tack­ers, Stange will be hop­ing to wel­come back the cre­ative in­put of Mahmoud Al Mawas. The Umm Salal winger was serv­ing out his sus­pen­sion from com­pet­i­tive games dur­ing the open­ing fix­ture af­ter be­ing sent off in the fi­nal World Cup play­off game against Aus­tralia.

He was is­sued a sec­ond yel­low for a chal­lenge on Matt Leckie as the Aussies won 2-1 in ex­tra-time and 3-2 on ag­gre­gate. Al Mawas starts on the right flank but reg­u­larly tucks in­side, drop­ping into pock­ets of space in the fi­nal third from where he can af­fect the at­tack. His in­clu­sion would lend sup­port to Khrbin and el­e­vate Syria’s link-up play in and around the area. With Osama Omari likely to be side­lined af­ter be­ing in­jured against Pales­tine, Al Mawas’ in­clu­sion is even more cru­cial.

Preda­tor looks for his prey: UAE striker Ali Mabkhout (l) will be key against In­dia.

Kept quiet: Syria’s Omar Khrbin (l).

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