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Saturday, December 22, 2012
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Syria savour rare success

Syrian players pray after Ahmad al-Salih (L) scored the winning goal against Iraq in the West Asia Football Federation championship final in Kuwait City on Thursday.Photo: AFP

War-torn Syria enjoyed some rare soccer success by beating Iraq 1-0 in Kuwait on Thursday to win the West Asian Championships for the first time.

Ahmad Al Salih headed the winning goal for Syria's Red Eagles in the 75th minute of the final and they rode their luck in the closing stages before claiming the nine-team biennial tournament.

"I give this win and this worthy title to the Syrian people. I thank God that we succeeded in bringing happiness to the sad people," striker Omar Al Soma said in a televised interview after the match.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in Syria since violence broke out against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

The Syrians reached the final after drawing with Iraq and coming from behind to beat Jordan in the group stages. They then edged Bahrain 3-2 on penalties when their semifinal finished 1-1 after extra time.

They had twice previously finished as runners-up in the tournament, in the inaugural edition in 2000 and again four years later, both times losing to Iran.

Syria are ranked 144th by world governing body FIFA and have never qualified for a World Cup but have made the Asian Cup finals on five occasions, most recently last year.

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