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Syria beat India to reach Asian Cup knockouts for first time

By AFP

January 23, 2024 08:00 PM


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Syria reached the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time in their history on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over India, sending their opponents home.

Hector Cuper's side finished Group B with four points and go through to the last 16 as one of the best four third-placed teams.

Omar Khribin was Syria's hero, his 76th-minute goal the winner.

Igor Stimac's India head home from Qatar with three defeats and no goals.

"We are very happy with the qualification, very proud of my players, they made huge sacrifices to get this result," the Argentine coach Cuper said.

"We played the game with one aim in our mind -- to win, and we managed to do that.

"We don't want to stop here."

Syria did most of the attacking in the opening exchanges in Doha but were restricted to speculative shots, as they sought their first goal and win at this Asian Cup.

They were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men after 25 minutes when Mahmood Al-Aswad violently chest-barged Mahesh Singh Naorem to the ground, having been dragged back in possession.

Referee Sivakorn Pu-udom booked both players, in a generally lenient performance.

Moments later, the Thai official declined fierce penalty appeals from the Syrians for a trip in the box on Ammar Ramadan.

By half-time, with Uzbekistan trailing Australia 1-0 in the other match in the group, a win would have seen Syria tie the Uzbeks on four points.

But they trailed their rivals on goal difference and would need to score a few to take second place and an automatic place in the knockouts.

With 20 minutes left and goals needed, Cuper sent on forward Alaa Al-Dali, replacing Ramadan.

As Indian legs tired, Syria finally mustered a moment of slick football 14 minutes from time, Ibrahim Hesar delivering a cutback from the left for Khribin to drill into the net.

"Congratulations to Syria, they deserved their win," said former Croatian international defender Stimac.

"They were stronger than us and more calm."

Despite falling once more at the first hurdle -- in what was a hard group -- Stimac said India would take home "good lessons".

"It was a learning experience for the boys," he said, having seen his team beaten 2-0 by Australia and 3-0 by Uzbekistan.

"My satisfaction is that we managed to create chances against Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria."


AFP


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