Al Hassan Toure broke the deadlock in the 101st minute at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday night to help push Australia into their first ever semi-final at the tournament, in which the top three will qualify for the Olympics in July.
The Adelaide United striker, who’s in his first season of professional football in Adelaide, took the field in the 65th minute and with both sides remaining goalless at fulltime, the match went into two halves of extra time.
Then there was a moment of magic as Olyroos midfielder Aiden O’Neill threaded an exquisite through ball from just past the halfway line to find Toure sprinting into the box.
The Australia forward poked at it with the outside of his right foot, pushing the ball through onrushing Syria keeper Mohammed Yazan Ourabi’s legs and into an open goal, sending the crowd into raptures.
It was Toure’s second goal for the Olyroos since he scored on debut in a friendly with China in November.
He said he it was “a great honour to score for my country”.
“You live for these moments, to play in semi-finals, not many people get that opportunity to play so I am just grateful,” Toure said.
Coach Graham Arnold said the Guinea-born striker was “doing fantastically well for us” but all his players had displayed “wonderful fight, wonderful commitment”.
“We knew that Syria play a very direct game, a very physical game, so the boys had to be up for the fight, and they were,” he said.
“Overall I know that we have a lot of improvement in us than what we showed tonight. Getting to the semi-finals for the first time ever is great for Australia but my whole focus is on the next game and I expect the players to go up to another level.”
In the semi-finals, Australia will face the winner of Sunday’s quarter-final between South Korea and Jordan.
Saudia Arabia beat hosts Thailand 1-0 in the other quarter-final and they will line up against either the United Arab Emirates or Uzbekistan in the semi-finals.