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Riyadh: Crestfallen from their painful exit in the FIFA World Cup continental playoff against Australia, it took Syria’s Omar Khrbin just seven days to spring back into action. 

Shrugging off his Sydney heartbreak, the 23-year-old was Al Hilal’s brightest spark in Muscat, grabbing a crucial brace – his fifth goal over the two legged semi-final – as the Saudi side secured a 6-2 on aggregate victory over Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis to set-up a titanic contest against Urawa Red Diamonds in the 2017 AFC Champions League final.

“If my career in football has taught me one thing, it is, to always move forward. You have to keep going. You take every defeat as an opportunity to improve, to educate yourself and to bounce back stronger in the next match,” said Khrbin.

Rising above adversity is clearly a reoccurring theme in Khrbin’s career.

Since turning professional with Syrian side Al Wahda in 2011, challenges off-the-pitch forced him to continue his development with a host of Iraqi clubs – Al Mina and Air Force Club – before catching the attention of United Arab Emirates giants Al Dhafra in 2016. 

But 2017 marked his grand entrance on the continental stage as the Damascus-born forward emerged as a central figure for both country and new club, for Al Hilal.

Leading the 2017 AFC Champions League topscorer charts with nine goals, Khrbin was instrumental in Syria’s best-ever FIFA World Cup Asian qualifying campaign, grabbing an impressive 10 goals in the process - just one shy of Said Bayazid’s national record.

Despite his astonishing ascent, Khrbin craves for silverware.

“Yes I have enjoyed a good spell in front of goal but they won’t matter if I can’t help my team win the title.

'Every player in this continent dreams of playing in the final,” revealed Khrbin, whose early foray in the international scene saw him feature sporadically in Syria’s first-ever West Asian Football Federation Championship triumph in 2012.

“I am pleased with my club form this past year but victory against Urawa will be my greatest achievement yet,” added the Lionel Messi fan.

The Syrian forward has set his sights firmly on unlocking Urawa’s backline, adding that the duo of Wataru Endo (pictured above) and Tomoaki Makino were particularly impressive at taming Brazilian talisman Hulk in their semi-final clash against Shanghai SIPG.

“Urawa are a team of equals, they don’t just rely on a few good individuals. From attack to defence, they work as a unit. Against Shanghai, the Japanese defence did an excellent job at containing the main threats.

“Al Hilal ARE similar in many ways, but we have the best players. Everyone is focused on the title and we believe that this year the trophy belongs to us.”

Victory against Urawa could be the spark that elevates Khrbin’s promise to greatness, yet true to form, the Syrian forward is already casting his eyes on the biggest stage.

“First, my aim is to win the AFC Champions League, and my next goal is to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar with Syria.”


Photos: Lagardère Sports