Syria head coach Bernd Stange wants his charges to emulate Iraq’s inspirational Asian Cup victory in 2007 that arrived against the backdrop of a troubled nation.
Syria open their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign against Palestine later today and Stange was cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances in the tournament.
“We are well prepared. We don’t have any injuries except for Firas Al-Khatib, who is known in this part of the world. My players are fit and we’re looking forward for tomorrow’s match,” he said in a pre-match press conference yesterday.
However the 70-year old German coach was also honest in assessing his team’s chances in the tournament as a whole, while acknowledging that the usual powerhouses of Asian football will likely have the edge.
“Nobody in our team is going to say that we are going to win the title,” he said. “We’re not arrogant. There are many teams who want to win the title. There are many teams that played in the World Cup in Russia, teams like Japan, Korea, Australia and Iran – that’s their advantage.”
However, Stange did make it a point to mention that putting on a strong performance would go a long way in giving the embattled country something to smile about, likening their situation to that of Iraq – who used the unrest back home to fuel an inspirational Asian Cup victory in 2007.
“I think Iraq has shown what’s possible. Years ago  they won the Asian Cup when nobody expected them to win and I personally believe these are young boys [the Syrian players] and they should fight and run for their country.”
“There is a lot of positive pressure on us from the millions of troubled Syrians who want to have something to smile about. We are here to try our best and give them this reason to smile,” he added.