Uefa Under-21 championships: Syria

It was an important victory for Cyprus after their semi-final at the European Under-21 Championship came off the rails on Sunday with a 4-2 defeat to Ukraine.

They’ll be hoping that beating Syria can give them the boost that will see them into the decider on 6 December after a last-eight win over Iceland.

Here is everything you need to know about the 26th winning Syria team.

Syrian talent has received a mixed response from other nations, as well as this journalist. Many top leagues do not even allow players born in Syria to represent their country and international players from their northern neighbours have never played under their own flag.

The fact that their Arab Brothers for Jordan also do not allow players born in Syria to represent the country is interesting, as the Bantu of the Solomon Islands are forbidden from picking players from other Pacific islands.

However, when Syria’s ability to produce international players has come up against that of Syria’s powerful neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, the South Asian side has always emerged as the more aggressive team.

Held up 2-0 at half-time against Saudi Arabia in a recent Uefa Champions League match, the Syrians suffered a 6-2 defeat.

Their first foray towards scoring came midway through the first half at the Bahraini Sports Club, a game Syria won 5-3.

Only a week earlier, they had lost 1-0 in Kuwait, with the Syrians hitting the woodwork three times and levelling the scores with a penalty.

Hearing that a loss would be enough to see them eliminated from Europe’s premier club competition was a blow. Their new coach, Mustafa Amin, was able to convince the players that they could win, particularly after they finally regained their composure against Bahrain.

He’s also set to reap rewards for taking the job. Being Arab Brother for Jordan does not always work out for an FA that raises funds via tickets for overseas games but, if Syria qualify for the 2019 Under-21 European Championship finals, he could potentially be signed off by Bahrain FA president Khaifan Oughail at the weekend.

That will leave him with a World Cup finals group draw in June and, even if he does not lead the team to Russia, he could attract plenty of interest to his free-and-easy philosophy in the international game.

Here’s what is certain: the Syria Under-21 side should not to be underestimated.

They could still get to the final as well, as they face Greece, Austria and winners of Russia vs Turkey and Greece v Denmark in a group that looks wide open.

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