What you need to know about Syria - the fairytale team keen to crash Australia's party

Syria natonal team
The Socceroos must not take Syria lightly otherwise their road to Russia may become a lot more complicated

Australia's winding path to Russia continues at Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka, Malaysia on Thursday night (AEDT) - against an opponent they know little about.

Syria, a nation who have never qualified for a World Cup, stand in the way of the green-and-gold, despite the war raging in their country and having to play all their home matches in south-east Asia.

Syria 4/1 for victory

What the Socceroos should know is they can't take their Middle East opposition lightly, especially considering they nearly qualified directly for Russia in a group featuring several Asian heavyweights.

In fact the Syrians drew both matches against Asia's top ranked team Iran, and failed to lose at their adopted Malaysian home, defeating Uzbekistan and getting draws versus South Korea and China.

They achieved all of this with an average possession percentage of only 39.61 and a passing accuracy of 62.04 percent - the lowest ranked of the 12 Asian teams in the group stage.

And it's clear from the highlights of Syria's matches they prefer to sit deep and hit teams with speed on the counter attack.

Syria's talisman is Al-Ahli striker Omar Al Somah - who has scored an extraordinary 78 goals in 73 matches in Saudi Arabia's top division - and the Australian defence must not allow the 28-year-old space to finish.

Omar Al Somah - Al Ahli vs. Al Qadesiya - Saudi League 15.10.2016

During the 2-1 win against Thailand, Australia absolutely dominated possession and chances but still allowed the Thais to score and have several chances on the break.

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If the Socceroos again struggle to take opportunities and they allow the Syrians space to counter, the road to Russia could become even rockier ahead of their home leg in Sydney on October 10.

Regardless of the winner, a two-leg playoff against the fifth-placed team in CONCACAF (currently the United States) is still to be navigated before a spot at the World Cup is secure.

There is still a long way to go for the Syrian fairytale to be complete but they could cause an Australian nightmare if there is any complacency.