Syria: War-torn nation keeps World Cup dream alive after draw in Tehran

    In war-torn Aleppo, football returns
    In war-torn Aleppo, football returns

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    • Iran and Syria draw in Tehran in World Cup qualifier
    • Syria can still qualify World Cup in Russia

    (CNN)That Syria was even in with a chance of reaching the World Cup heading into the final match of qualifying against Iran on Tuesday was nothing short of a miracle.

    In a country that has been ravaged by an ongoing civil war -- an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations -- the national football team has provided the nation with a narrative of sporting success against all the odds.
      A 3-1 "home" victory against Qatar on Thursday -- the game had to be staged in Malaysia due to the civil war -- meant a win against Iran would guarantee Syria a playoff place, although if South Korea failed to beat Uzbekistan, the Syrian team would qualify for Russia 2018 automatically.
      Back in Syria, huge television screens had been set up by the government in at least three squares in the capital, Damascus, to allow fans to watch the game in public.
      Syria started on the front foot and their early dominance was rewarded with a goal, as Tamer Haj Mohamad bundled in the rebound after Omar Al Somah's free-kick was initially saved.
      However, a goal from Sardar Azmoun just before halftime drew the sides level in Tehran, before Iran's goalscorer then got his second early in the second half to put the hosts in front.
      As the game entered the final moments, with Uzbekistan holding South Korea to a draw, it looked as though Syria's World Cup dream was over.
      But in almost the last move of the game, Al Somah received the ball on the edge of the area and drilled his shot low towards goal.
      Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand dived to the ground with his legs outstretched, but couldn't stop the ball from nestling in the far corner.
      Al Somah ran to the corner flag and sunk to his knees. Within seconds he was swamped by his 10 teammates and the entire bench, many of who turned to celebrate euphorically with the huge crowd of visiting Syrian fans in the stands.
      Syria will now play either Saudi Arabia or Australia for the chance to face a team from the CONCACAF region for a place in the 2018 World Cup.
      One of the greatest footballing runs in recent memory goes on.