We're up against a formidable foe, says Aussie who faced Syria

Should the Socceroos need any reminding of the magnitude of the task facing them against Syria in next month's win-or-perish World Cup eliminator, they need only ask former NSL defender turned player agent Buddy Farah.

Syria football

Syria's players celebrate at the end of their FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match against Iran Source: AFP

Farah - who counts Socceroos Mark Milligan, Awer Mabil, Jimmy Jeggo, Dylan McGowan and Mustafa Amini among his clients - made his international debut for his ancestral home of Lebanon against Syria as a 24-year-old back in 2002.

The ex-Olyroo went on to win 20 caps for Lebanon, and none was tougher than his first against the Syrians in Damascus.

He has followed the fortunes of the team from the war-torn nation - who will play their 'home' game in Malaysia or Qatar on 5 October with the return in Sydney five days later - ever since.


For any Australians who are tempted to take the Syrians lightly going into the two-legged play-off, Farah warned: "I wasn't quite sure what to expect in my debut 15 years ago, as it was a new chapter in my career at the time.

"But to say that I was surprised by the strength of the opposition, their technical prowess and the level of quality in a team from a poor sporting history is an understatement."

The ravages of civil war, the decimation of their domestic competition and being forced to play their 'home' national team games in far-flung venues has only hardened Syria's fortitude and resolve, according to Farah.

"The one downfall of their football mentality in the past was the comfort of relying solely on their domestic league," he added.

"However, the team has evolved and most players ply their trade abroad now, and you can see the benefits of that.

"The Socceroos can only expect one thing: a tough gig home and away.

"The Syrians will want this more than anything. They have a nation that has been literally wiped out, and kids who had grown up with dreams of playing this beautiful game have unfortunately lost everything.

"The team that faces Australia will driven and passionate to put the country on the global map for all the right reasons.

"Overcoming opposition with this type of motivation won't be any easier than what we have already encountered during this qualifying phase."

After holding the likes of regional powers Iran and South Korea to draws, Farah said the Syrians offered much, both technically and tactically.

"They are a technically gifted squad, which plays a good brand of football," he said.

"They have a number of key weapons in there team. "They have had favourable results against Iran and South Korea in qualification and this would have given them hope that they can go on with the job. 

"I would say nothing other than 'don't take them lightly'. 

"No surprises here. The warning bells are ringing. 

"Football doesn't discriminate. Passion is within and these players certainly have it. "

Should Australia survive their Syrian test, they will need to beat the fourth placed team from CONCACAF over two legs - either USA, Honduras or Panama - to seal qualification for Russia 2018.

"I will not comment on Australia's campaign to date, other than to say it should never have come down to the last game (the 2-1 win over Thailand which saw them limp into third spot behind Saudi Arabia and Japan)," added Farah.

"I think our whole system in Australia is flawed and this starts from grassroots to senior level.

"That's where it all starts and then filters to the international scene.

"We've had problems in our game for many years.

"We turned away from what was successful for us in the past and have implemented all these changes and yet we really haven't yet stamped our presence on a global stage. We really have no identity. "

Farah, insisted though that the squad still has faith in coach Ange Postecoglou.

"I don't believe the players are losing faith. ... they are on the same page as their leader," he declared.

"I think it's more some sections of the public that is losing faith."

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4 min read
Published 8 September 2017 at 6:56pm
By Dave Lewis