The National Team is back! Here are 5 things to look out for

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The Lebanese National Team in training in Dubai (by Lebanese Football Association)

359 days since the last time the Cedars took to the field. I think we can all agree this is way too long and everyone is eager for the National Team to get back into action. But since Lebanon’s 0-0 draw with North Korea in Beirut last year, a lot has changed and there is a lot to look out for on the Cedars’ return.

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Liviu Ciobotariu was a breath of fresh air for Lebanese football

photo obtained from the-afc.com

On Wednesday, the Lebanese Football Association announced their decision not to renew the Romanian Liviu Ciobotariu’s contract as National Team head coach, with Jamal Taha chosen as his successor. This decision comes as the country finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, a circumstance which surely impacted the Federation’s decision. And yet Ciobotariu’s departure will leave many wondering what might have been.

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Marmar and Abu Al-Hail managerial skills put to the test in this year’s AFC Cup

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On Monday, the 2020 AFC Cup kicks off for the clubs representing Lebanon this year. Ahed – who qualify as league winners – and Ansar – who qualify as league runners up having lost to Ahed in the FA Cup final – will be facing tough challenges ahead of this year’s competition because of the country’s dire economic and political situation and both head coaches, Bassem Marmar (Ahed) and Abdel-Wahab Abu Al-Hail (Ansar), will see their credentials seriously tested as they bid to lead their teams to success.

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The Super Cup, a preview of this season’s title race?

9f56b22e-0408-426d-aa85-7a587056a519.JPGLater today, Ahed face Beirut rivals Ansar in the Lebanese football season’s curtain-raiser, the Super Cup. Ahed will be hoping to continue their domestic dominance having won two successive league and cup doubles but last year’s runners-up in both the league and the FA Cup Ansar have strengthened significantly over the summer and are looking to spoil Ahed’s party, today, and this season.

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What did we learn from the West Asian Championships?

The Lebanese National Team participated in the 2019 West Asian Championships, which took place in Iraq, and although the results were ultimately disappointing, there were loads of positives to take. In what was Liviu Ciobotariu’s first outing as Lebanon’s head coach, he led the team through four games against teams from the region with the goal of getting to know the local-based players (expatriates weren’t available for selection due to the tournament being outside of official FIFA international break) and beginning to implement his style of play in preparation for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifying campaign which begin on the 5th September with a trip to familiar foes North Korea.

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5 things Lebanon’s new head coach needs to do

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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.

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Poor preparations, match-fixing and tensions between clubs and the FA result in worst domestic season in recent years

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.

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Lebanon youth teams evidence that consistent failure is due to poor management, not lack of talent

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.

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Qualification unlikely for Lebanon Olympic team which should have been group favourites

This week is a massive week for the Lebanese Olympic Squad (Under-23), as they prepare to travel to Saudi Arabia to participate in the 2020 Asian Cup qualifiers. However, they go there with non-existent preparation as the FA has shown very little interest in the youth teams and very little planning when it comes to their management and development.

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