Socceroos’ qualification hopes dealt a blow with surprise venue for Syrian ‘home’ match

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    The Socceroos’ path to the World Cup is about to get even tougher with next month’s qualifying play-off against Syria likely to be played in the Middle East – not in Malaysia.

    War-torn Syria has not played on home soil since 2010 and staged all of their third-round Asian qualifiers in Malaysia, where it was anticipated they would play host to Australia on October 5.

    But it’s understood there are moves being made by Syria’s football association to ensure the clash will be held in either Jordan, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates – instead of on Australia’s doorstep in south-east Asia.

    Reports from overseas suggest Abu Dhabi is the frontrunner.

    Football Federation Australia is eagerly awaiting the venue announcement from the Asian Football Confederation, with official word expected in the next 24 hours.

    “We haven’t heard anything officially but we’re also watching to see when the venue will be confirmed,” FFA chief executive David Gallop told AAP.

    The return leg, on October 10, is locked in for ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

    The Socceroos have traditionally struggled in the Middle East and have won just two of their last five qualifiers in the region.

    However, the most recent win was one of Australia’s best performances in recent memory, beating the UAE 1-0 in steaming conditions in Abu Dhabi last November.

    The winner of the two-legged clash between Australia and Syria will take on North and Central America’s fourth-best team in another play-off for a spot at Russia 2018.

    © AAP 2017
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