The Socceroos have been spared a gruelling trip to the Middle East after the Asian Football Confederation confirmed the first leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff against Syria will be played in Malaysia.
Football Federation Australia has been informed the tie will be played at Malacca’s Hang Jebat Stadium on 5 October and not in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, the preferred locations for Syria.
Thus far in their bid to qualify for Russia 2018, Syria have played their “home” games in Malaysia due to the on-going conflict in country, but they were keen to shift the tie with Australia to the Middle East.
Of their third-round qualifiers played in the south-east Asian country, Syria have appeared three times at Hang Jebat Stadium, beating Uzbekistan and Qatar and posting a draw with China there.
The return fixture has already been set for ANZ Stadium in Sydney, five days later.
“This is one of those occasions where every fan can make a difference. It’s a great stadium and it’s going to be a great experience on 10 October,” FFA CEO David Gallop said.
“Our football dreams have come true before at Stadium Australia and they can again. Don’t miss this chance to witness history.”
The winner of the two-legged Asian conference tie will advance to another playoff against the fourth-placed team from the Concacaf region, currently shaping as one of Panama, Honduras or the US.
That tie will be played in November, with the winner claiming a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
The Socceroos missed out on the chance to secure automatic qualification when they beat Thailand 2-1 and Saudi Arabia overcame Japan 1-0 last week.
The failure to put more goals past Thailand ultimately cost Ange Postecoglou’s side – and heaped pressure on the coach’s position – as the Saudis secured their place along with group winners Japan.