Australia
2 (3)

Syria
1 (2)

Football

ByTheMinHipster

Good morning football fans. Or should that be g'day... I'm Roddy Graham and welcome to the ByTheMinute coverage of Australia vs Syria for a chance to have a 2nd legged tie next month to bag a spot at Russia 2018. Yes, it really is Australia versus Syria! 1-1 from the first leg puts Australia as big favourites to make it through. But rule out Syria at your peril. As always, CUE THE MUSIC!

Want some team news before kick off? Oh, go on then... AUSTRALIA: Ryan, Degenek, Sainsbury, Jurman, Leckie, Kruse, Milligan, Troisi, Smith, Rogic, Cahill (The big talking point is Aaron Mooy only getting a place on the bench!) SYRIA: Almeh, Youssef, Medani, Baour, Aijan, Maowas, Mohamad, Jafal, Mardikian, Mido, Al-Soma

Australia are bidding to reach their 4th straight World Cup but come into this game under a media backdrop of pressure being applied to the squad and coaching team. Failure to win tonight would be a red rag to a bull to the Aussie press pack. Surely the unthinkable for the home side won't come to fruition...? They have only lost one qualifier at home since 1981 as well. So history is on their side.

Syria, meanwhile, have never qualified for a World Cup and reaching Russia 2018 would be almost a bigger fairytale than Leicester City winning the Premier League a couple of years back. Their country is in the midst of a vicious civil war under the rule of Assad, but this run has gripped a nation. Win tonight and the most unlikely sporting journey would continue.

Kickoff is less than 10 minutes away. I can't see anything other than an Australian win tonight. Sorry underdog fans. Teams are in the tunnel and there's a vibrant atmosphere inside the stadium. 83,000 inside too. No bad.

Cannot quite believe the number of Syrians inside the ground. They've got a huge support behind one of the goals. Flags being waved with gusto. What a sight. Don't think I've ever heard their national anthem before either. It's very forgettable in truth...

Heard the Australian one a wee bit more in my life. Normally when watching swimming at the Olympics. Maybe not so much in the last few years, granted. We're about to begin this 2nd leg. Stay tuned for live updates, minute-by-minute. Though I think you already know the score...

Ayman Hakim is the Syrian manager. Watched him speaking on a BBC doc with Richard Conway a few months ago. A passionate guy to say the least. Camera pans to Tim Cahill. He just loves the limelight that guy. How old is he now though?! Must be kicking on 47.

UNDERWAY! We have begun the 2nd leg. Australia on the frontfoot from the off. The Aussies are in yellow, Syria in red. And I have the annoying BEIN Sports logo moving around my screen like a Windows screensaver from 1997.

Lot of focus on Aaron Mooy in the build up to today's game. Sense there might be a wee bit of tension between him and his manager as the game goes on. Even more so if Syria score. Aussies dominating the early play. Rogic and Kruse seeing a lot of the ball in the opening couple of minutes.