March 12, 2020 / 5:55 AM / a month ago

Maaloul takes on Syria role with eyes set on World Cup berth

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Group G - Panama vs Tunisia - Mordovia Arena, Saransk, Russia - June 28, 2018 Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul REUTERS/Murad Sezer

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Former Tunisia international Nabil Maaloul on Thursday said he has been appointed head coach of Syria’s national soccer team and has set his sights on steering the country to its first-ever appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals.

The former Tunisia and Kuwait coach replaces Fajr Ibrahim, who led Syria to the top of the standings in the ongoing qualifying rounds for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

“I’m glad to be appointed head coach for the Syria national team and happy to have the trust of the Syria Football Association,” Maaloul wrote on Twitter.

“Our main target will be to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.”

Maaloul’s predecessor Ibrahim had masterminded a 2-1 win over China in Dubai in November that prompted the resignation of China’s World Cup-winning coach, Italian Marcello Lippi, as the Chinese slipped eight points behind Syria in the standings.

Though Ibrahim recorded five consecutive wins, he did not have his contract renewed by the Syria Football Association when it expired at the end of 2020.

Maaloul last worked as head coach of Qatar Stars League side Al Duhail before being replaced by former Manchester United and Chelsea assistant manager Rui Faria.

Syria’s next World Cup qualifying match was to be played on March 31 against the Maldives but the game has been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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