Syria's World Cup dreams over

Syria coach Ayman Al Hakim said Mahmoud Al Mawas' extra-time red card was the turning point, as his team's fairy-tale World Cup bid ended in the Asian play-offs yesterday.

Al Hakim said the rank outsiders would have survived until penalties against Australia if Al Mawas hadn't been sent off for a second bookable offence early in the first extra period.

Syria's players were left inconsolable after Tim Cahill's 109th-minute winner sealed it 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate for Australia, who now go into an intercontinental play-off with the Concacaf federation's fourth-placed team, currently Panama.

Omar Al Soma also thundered a free-kick against the post in the dying seconds as the war-torn country, who have never reached the World Cup, came within inches of a shock play-off victory.

"The players followed instructions very, very well, but the Australian goal happened because of the pressure of the Socceroos," Al Hakim said.

"The first goal was a small mistake, not a major mistake, and the second goal was because we had 10 players.

"We studied the Socceroos very well and, if we had 11 players and hadn't hit the (post) at the end, it would have been different.

"But I am very proud of my boys with what they have achieved and that's going to continue moving forward as well."

Al Soma had opened the scoring for Syria in the sixth minute before Cahill's headed equaliser took the game to extra-time.

Syria were left with a mountain to climb when Al Mawas lunged at Robbie Kruse and received his second yellow card.

Their resistance finally cracked when Cahill nodded in his second goal on 109 minutes to end their hopes.

"The Australian team are experienced... We were without many important players and this certainly had an impact," Al Hakim said. - AFP

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