The Lowdown: Australia v Syria

Syria v Australia, Hang Jebat Stadium, Melaka, Malaysia. 11:30pm (AEDT) on Thursday. Live on Fox Sports and Channel Nine.

Syria

Possible team (4-4-2): Alma; Ajan, Al-Massri, Al-Baour, Al-Shbli; Kharbin, Haj Mohammed, Al-Midani, Mawas; Al-Soma, Al-Khatib.

Omar Al-Soma, in red, flies in for a header against Iran.

Omar Al-Soma, in red, flies in for a header against Iran. Photo: EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

Key player: Omar Al-Soma. All eyes may be on captain Firas Al-Khatib but it's their lesser-known goalscoring machine who could land the killer blow against the Socceroos. Al-Soma plays his club football in Saudi Arabia and has began the season in his usual blistering form with a goal-to-game ratio. In total, he's scored 111 goals in 109 games for Al Ahli, earning the nickname "Colonel" to most and "The Arabian Zlatan" to his biggest admirers for his flamboyant style of play. He is deadly from set pieces, strong in the air, quick with with his feet, clinical in front of goal and lethal at striking from distance making him one of the most complete centre-forwards in the Middle East.

Australia

Possible team (3-2-4-1): Ryan; Degenek, Sainsbury, Jurman; Milligan, Luongo; Leckie, Rogic, Mooy, Smith; Juric.

Trent Sainsbury at Socceroos training in Malaysia.

Trent Sainsbury at Socceroos training in Malaysia. Photo: FFA

Key player: Trent Sainsbury. Australia haven't had no issues scoring this campaign, 45 times across both qualifying stages in fact, but it's their defence that has proven problematic. Trent Sainsbury has emerged as the leading centre-back in the controversial three-man defence and could be flanked by a debutant in the slim defence. He will need to be at his most influential to deny the Syrians and plug the Socceroos' porous backline.

Key battle: Omar Khartib v Mathew Leckie.

Australia's Mathew Leckie has been in fine for Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin.

Australia's Mathew Leckie has been in fine for his Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin. Photo: AAP

Syria's technical gifted forward is another who's been a revelation in Saudi Arabia with local giants Al Hilal. He will likely be deployed on the wing for Syria where he could cause havoc for Australia's back three. His threat will require an astute performance from Matt Leckie to cover deeper as well as support for his own forwards.

This story The Lowdown: Australia v Syria first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.