The feel-good story of World Cup qualification has at least one more chapter.
With a goal in the 93rd minute against Iran on Tuesday, Syria secured one point and a spot in the Asian playoff against Australia.
Syria struck first with a goal in the 13th minute but Iran equalized just before the half and took the lead in the 64th minute. Syria’s World Cup dreams seemed as though they’d been crushed but then Omar Al Soma slipped a ball past the Iranian keeper in transition mere moments before the final whistle.
It was an emotional moment for the players from the country that has been rocked by civil war for more than half a decade. The war has forced Syria to play its home matches in qualifying at stadiums in Oman and Malaysia.
Iran had already locked up first place in one of the two qualifying groups—South Korea secured second place with a 0–0 draw against Uzbekistan on Tuesday. Syria tied with Uzbekistan on points but earned third place on goal differential and will now face Australia in the Asian confederation’s playoff. (Saudi Arabia qualified automatically with a win over Japan on Tuesday and forced Australia into the playoff.)
The playoff winner will advance to the intercontinental playoff, potentially against the United States.