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View from Down Under: Socceroos Favorites to Beat Syria in World Cup Qualifying Playoff Opener

Australia is the favorite to beat Syria this week in an away World Cup qualifying playoff neither side can afford to lose.

Australia was forced into a grueling double playoff to reach Russia in 2018 after a lackluster Asian qualifying campaign saw it finish third in Group B behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Syria overcame the disadvantages of being a country divided by civil war to earn a third-place finish in Group A behind Iran and South Korea.

Their match, due to finish early Friday morning, will be played in neutral Malaysia due to security concerns in Syria.

Australia is paying $1.80 (-125) on the William Hill board, with Syria at $4.50 (+350) and $3.50 (+250) for a draw, but given the unpredictable results from both sides, nothing should be taken for granted. A key to Syria’s success so far has been its ability to score late goals, with two wins and a draw coming in added time.

European stars Mathew Leckie and Aaron Mooy will line up for Australia along with Melbourne Victory’s Mark Milligan, while left back Gabriel Somi of Swedish side Ostersunds FK has earned his first cap.

Whoever wins the playoff faces another home-and-away series against the fourth-place team from North and Central America. The opening leg against Syria kicks off at 11:30 p.m. Thursday AEDT.

After crumbling to an embarrassing 4-1 loss in its five-match One Day series against India, Australia has a chance of salvaging some pride when the first of three Twenty20 matches gets underway Sunday morning. Captain Steve Smith, openers David Warner and Aaron Finch have stayed on for the T20s, along with Glenn Maxwell and Travis Head, while fast bowlers Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson and leg-spinner Adam Zampa will continue on the tour.

Joining them are wicketkeeper Tim Paine, all-rounders Dan Christian and Moises Henriques and pacemen Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye.

India is favorite to win the opening T20 at Ranchi’s JSCA International Stadium on $1.62 (-161), with Australia worth a punt at $2.25 (+125).

Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell’s Holden Commodore is favorite to take out Australia’s biggest race on the domestic V8 Supercars calendar when the Bathurst 1000 gets underway Sunday.

Whincup and Dumbrell are paying $4.50 (+350 ) ahead of the Ford Falcon of Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Premat at $5 (+400), Shane van Gisbergen and Matt Campbell on $6 (+500), Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen on $8 (+700), and Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto on $9 (+800).

Daniel Ricciardo will look to emulate the success of his Red Bull teammate when Formula 1 heads to Japan this weekend.

Max Verstappen won the Malaysian GP with Ricciardo in third for his eighth podium of the season. The Australian is fifth favorite to win on the Suzuka Circuit this Sunday at a very tempting $7 (+600).

In the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies are the $1.37 (-270) favorites to win their match at Argentina, with the Pumas paying $3.10 (+210).