Australia beat 10-man Syria 2-1 after extra time in Sydney on Tuesday as the Socceroos edged past the Syrians 3-2 on aggregate in the AFC playoff.
Thanks to two Tim Cahill headers, the second coming in the 109th minute with the game seemingly destined for penalty kicks, Australia will now play in the inter-confederation playoff against the 4th place team from CONCACAF qualifying.
That could be one of the United States, Panama or Honduras and the home and away playoff games will take place next month during the international break from Nov. 6-14.
Syria, playing without several regulars due to injury and suspension, put in a valiant effort as the war-torn nation have played their home games in Malaysia throughout qualifying due to the conflict currently engulfing their homeland. Syria came agonizingly close to going one step closer to reaching their first-ever World Cup finals.
They looked to be well on their way to pulling off one of the biggest shocks of World Cup qualifying across the globe as they went 1-0 up early on (and 2-1 on aggregate) through Omar Al Soma’s fine finish.
That goal sparked Australia, and particularly Cahill, into life.
Cahill, 37 years young, popped up with a trademark header in the 13th minute to make it 1-1 (see above) and he did the same just 11 minutes before the end of extra time to avoid the lottery of penalty kicks and ensure that Australia are now just 180 minutes away from making their fourth-straight World Cup.
Syria did have one last chance to take the game into penalty kicks but Al Somah (their hero in their final AFC group game at Iran when he scored a last-minute equalizer to seal their spot in this playoff) saw his free kick agoninzingly smash the post and go wide.
This is how close Syria came to yet another incredible moment in their wonderful journey.