As war rages on, Syria's football team is close to qualifying for the World Cup

Squad is just four games away from qualifying for the first time.

Could Syria qualify for the World Cup?IBT

As the civil war in Syria continues to rage on, the national football team are managing to lift the spirits of the nation.

The squad, ranked 75th in the world, are close to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup – which would be the first time they have ever made the international tournament.

During qualification, Syria's football team has beaten China, Uzbekistan and Qatar, and is now only a few games away from clinching a place in the World Cup taking place in Russia next year.

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The Syrians will play face Australia next in a two-leg playoff starting this week. If they win, only two more matches stand in their way of qualifying for the World Cup.

"We have a huge motivation: to make the Syrian people happy," Syrian midfielder Midani told the Associated Press. "The players and management hope we'll be able to unify our people."

"Australia may have many big-name players known for their individual talents. But we have the enormous potential that comes from performing as a group," he added.

The team's historic victory against Iran last month was celebrated by thousands of jubilant fans. They celebrated against the backdrop of Damascus, the Syrian capital, which has been gutted by airstrikes and car bombs in recent months.

Due to the heightened violence, the players, known as the "Qasioun Eagles", have played all their "home" games in Malaysia.

The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than six years and has claimed the lives of almost half a million people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Supported by President Bashar al-Assad, the football team has left many Syrians feeling morally conflicted about their loyalty.

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"Anyone who knows Syria well knows that in Syria there are no independent institutions, and that includes sporting institutions," Syrian journalist Hala Droubi told the Los Angeles Times.

Assad has been accused of using the team as a propaganda tool and a distraction from the human rights violations his government is said to have committed.

But the team denies any political affiliation. "We have nothing to do with politics," striker Firas Khatib told the newspaper. "We represent every Syrian citizen."

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