Syria may have made little impression on the continental stage, but they took plenty of ambition into the AFC's third qualifying round for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. But rather than take satisfaction from draws against Iran and United Arab Emirates - the two favourites to advance from Group 5 - which left them in a strong position to realise their objective, the South-East Asians decided a change was needed.
A goalless draw in Iran on 6 February had been met by smiles by the Syrians, and a 1-1 stalemate with UAE in their second outing left them well on track to progress ahead of their remaining four games, two of which will be played against section outsiders Kuwait. Being held on home soil, however, was to cost coach Ebrahim Fajer his job, and it is Mohamed Kwid who now has the task of guiding the side into Asia's final ten.
Kwid is no stranger to Syrian supporters. After leading the unfancied Al Karama to the silver medal on their debut in the AFC Champions League in 2006, his popularity soared and the Homs-based club have since continued to excel in both domestic and continental competition.
Al Karama's defeat of Al Majd on Sunday left them needing just one win from their remaining four matches to claim a seventh - and third consecutive - Syrian Championship. Meanwhile, victory over Al Wahda in their penultimate Group C fixture on 7 May will send them through to the last eight of the Champions League 2008.
Due to these considerable achievements, the Syrian Football Association have allowed Kwid to combine the national team role with his Al Karama duties, making him the third man in Asia to work on club and country fronts simultaneously following Iran and Saipa tactician Ali Daei, and Rodion Gacanin, who operates the Kuwait and Al Kuwait controls.
Since coaches Daei and Gacanin have been doing well with both jobs, I think I can at least follow the examples set by my Asian counterparts
," Kwid said. "I am grateful for this appointment as it is always a great honor to serve your country. And I also thank the club for their massive support in allowing me to take on this double duty."
Kwid's first test in charge of Syria comes on 2 June, when his charges play Kuwait away knowing that victory will move them into the top two places in Group 5. "The priorities are enhancing the team's self-esteem and fighting spirit," added the gaffer, whose Al Karama side stunned the likes of two-time Asian kings Al Ittihad and Al-Qadisya en route to the Champions League final in 2006.
"Every game will be decisive for us and we have to feel strong again our opponents. Although we are in the primary stage of football professionalism we are happy to see the good progress made by the clubs, which has brought about positive changes at national team level. We believe we will be able to break new ground as long as this momentum keeps going," Kwid concluded.