Lebanon started their West Asian Championship campaign with a 1-0 defeat to hosts Iraq, but there were numerous positives to take from the Cedars’ first performance under new head coach Liviu Ciobotariu. On what was a great occasion in the city of Karbala, where Iraqis filled the stadium to watch their National Team’s first competitive match on home soil in over a decade, it was the men in red who played the better football, and although they returned empty-handed, fans were left encouraged by what they had seen.
The Lebanese national team is in Iraq ready to participate in the 2019 West Asian Championship. This tournament represents the Cedars’ first bit of action since the 2019 Asian Cup back in January, and the first bit of action for new Romanian head coach Liviu Ciobotariu, meaning that loads of people will be tuning in to see what this “new” Lebanon looks like.
Lebanon did not meet expectations at the recent Asian Cup, their first in 19 years, and this meant that Montenegrin head coach Miodrag Radulovic did not have his contract renewed after four years in charge. He was replaced by the Romanian Liviu Ciobotariu, who took training with the National Team for the first time this week in preparations for the West Asian Championship which kicks off in Iraq on the 30th of July, and then the Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asian Cup.
Last summer, excitement in Lebanese football was high, mainly in anticipation of the National Team’s historic participation in the Asian Cup in January, their first major tournament in 19 years. Indeed, this year was to be arguably the most important year in Lebanese football history, and with ambitions of making it to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for the first time, it was more crucial than ever that the domestic game had a strong year. However, unfortunately, it was to be quite the opposite, as numerous issues amounted to provide one of the worst seasons in Lebanese football since the end of the Civil War.
Friday night saw the biggest derby in Lebanese football take place under the lights of the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium, with Nejmeh and Ansar fighting for a place in the FA Cup semi-final. This was the biggest game of the season, especially since Ahed cruised to a third successive league title and with Nejmeh and Ansar both wanting to avoid another trophyless season. Lebanese football fans had been waiting for this game for months, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of entertainment.
Just over a month ago, Lebanon’s Olympic Team participated in Asian Cup Qualifiers with no preparation and as result finished 3rd in their group. Then, a few weeks later, it was the turn of the under-19s, who participated in the ISF World Championship (a non-FIFA tournament) in Serbia and achieved an impressive 8th place out of the 24 participating teams. This is a stark contrast between two generations who are only a few years apart and yet, there is a logical explanation for this contrast: the FA.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed to us that Miodrag Radulovic, Lebanon head coach since 2015, would not continue with the Cedars. This comes after four years which saw him qualify the team for the Asian Cup for the first time in their history, during which they clinched their first ever tournament win in the 4-1 victory over North Korea, as well as go on a 16-match unbeaten run between March 2016 and October 2018. We might very well find out who replaces him after the LFA Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Here I take a look at some of the possible candidates for the job: