Wednesday 30 August 2017, 12:17

Returning Al Somah boosts Syrian hopes

  • Omar Al Somah back in Syrian squad after five-year absence

  • Syria fourth in Group A of Asian qualifiers for Russia 2018

  • Al Somah hoping to replicate club success with national team

Even the most optimistic fans of Syrian football did not expect their national team to reach the third round of Asian qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ - and still be in with a historic chance of gracing the showpiece event with two games remaining.

Yet the Eagles of Qasioun have surprised everyone, especially given the devastating conflict that has afflicted Syria since 2011, which has prevented the team from playing internationals on home soil since a friendly with Iraq on 22 December 2010.

However, a recent friendly, again with Iraq, heralded better news for Syria fans, featuring as it did the presence of Omar Al Somah for the first time in five years. The striker last turned out for his country in 2012, when he helped them win that year’s West Asia Football Federation Championship in Kuwait.

Al Somah's comeback will certainly enhance Syria’s attack and improve its chances of reaching Russia 2018. The team currently sit fourth in Group A with nine points, four behind second-placed Korea Republic, who occupy the last direct qualifying berth. In their final two games, Syria take on Iran and Qatar.

Al Somah's return was warmly welcomed by his team-mates at their current training camp in Malaysia, which will host the Qatar fixture so vital to their dream of reaching the World Cup for the first time.

After the friendly against Iraq, Syria's coach Ayman Al Hakim expressed his delight at Al Somah's return. "The match was useful as it helped us assess the readiness of our players," he said. "Add to that the participation of Al Somah, who played with the team for the first time since his return."

Nicknamed Al-Aqqid, Al Somah has established himself as a prominent striker in Asian football after winning the Saudi League's top scorer award for the past three years with club side Al Ahli. He has also scored five times in the 2017 AFC Champions League, most recently away to Iran's Persepolis during last week’s quarter-finals.

Al Somah's continental experience will provide a major boost to the ambitions of Syria, which has recently seen the return of several other seasoned players, headed by Firas Al Khatib, who scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Iraq.

Al Somah is hoping he can replicate the successes he has enjoyed in the Saudi and Champions Leagues with his national team. His stated goal is now to score in the qualifiers for Russia 2018 and help the Eagles of Qasioun grace football’s flagship event for the first time ever.

Omar Al Somah in brief: Age: 28 years Height: 1.92 cm (6’3) Current Club: Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia) National team debut: 11 October 2012 International appearances: 5