A third successive final in an All India Football Federation (AIFF)-hosted multi-nation tournament was not to be for Syria. The Qasioun Eagles bowed out of the 2019 Intercontinental Cup after securing only a 1-1 draw with India on Tuesday.
Coach Fajr Ibrahim brought his Syria team in hopes to win the trophy after final defeats in the 2007 and 2009 Nehru Cups. However, they managed to only finish third after beating DPR Korea 5-2, losing to Tajikistan 2-0 and playing out a draw in their final game.
"We played football without result, but that’s not enough in football. We have to score and we have to create chances to score. Same happened against Tajikistan. We controlled the game, we create chances but didn’t score.
"But it's okay, I am satisfied because as I told earlier that the players who came here, most of them are new. Some of them were playing for the first time for the national team. I think we have some good players for the future," the 55-year-old said after the game.
He continued, "We came here to test the players. Only three players (in the squad) were experienced. We have the World Cup 2022 qualifiers draw tomorrow. So we need new blood for that. India, of course, played very well, they worked hard. They are a good side."
The former Al-Wahda player compared the Intercontinental Cup with the previous two India sojourns he had been a part of. He said, "I came here for Nehru Cups before. This (Intercontinental Cup) was different. The previous tournament had more ambition, they had more spectators. The environment was different from here. But this is good for India. Conducting this every year is fantastic."
Ibrahim was pleasantly surprised by the strides India had been making in Asian football. Syria and India both had early exits from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup earlier this year, the former returned home with just a point, while the latter at least managed a win before being knocked out in the group stages itself.
"For sure India have been doing well. From the last time, I saw now they have a different mentality," he opined.
"But for good results, you need time and patience. You have to care for grassroots. I think India now has a good league, the Indian Super League. You have many professional players so it is a good experience for Indian players. I think after some years you will do well. You have to have the right planning if you want to improve," he signed off.