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.
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.
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.
After having rated the performances of every member of the Cedar’s squad at this year’s Asian Cup, I will now highlight six players from the Cedars who caught the eye at the tournament.
Lebanon’s first major tournament campaign in 19 years ended on Thursday night despite a first ever Asian Cup win, with the Cedars being knocked out at the group stages, just like in their maiden Asian Cup campaign back home in 2000. This was a historical tournament for Lebanon because it was the first time that they qualified for a tournament, having hosted the Asian Cup in 2000, and so the fans were incredibly excited to see their heroes take on the best in the continent and the players were very determined to enjoy the experience and do well. However, things unfortunately did not go to planned as Lebanon were unsuccessful in their attempt to qualify for their first ever knockout stages. Here, I will attempt to point out exactly why Lebanon failed to reach their targets.
On Thursday night, Lebanon face North Korea in their final group game at this Asian Cup at the Sharjah Football Stadium. This game is crucial for our team as it is our door to the last 16 of the 2019 Asian Cup, a stage we are yet to reach in our history. And while two defeats in our opening two matches against Qatar and Saudi Arabia have put us in a tricky situation to make this happen, there is still hope.
Since the defeat to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, all the talk has been about Lebanon’s final group game against North Korea, scheduled for Thursday at 8pm local time at the football stadium in Sharjah. And rightly so, given that this game is Lebanon’s final chance at making it to the last 16 for the first time in its history.
It is not the best time to be Lebanese. The country is suffering from yet another political stalemate and finds itself in the midst of a bad economic situation just as Israel is becoming noisier again. The people are fed up and angry. But there might be one thing they can look forward to.
In the next few days, National Team head coach Miodrag Radulovic will announce the squad of players set to go to Bahrain for a preparation camp that will begin on the 16th of December and go until the 28th. Continue reading “Who will make the squad?”
The Lebanese squad has now returned from Australia, with the players going back to their respective clubs in Lebanon, Sweden, England, Croatia and Japan and resuming their club duties with a month to go until the biggest and most exciting event in Lebanese football’s history. Lebanon played two friendlies against Uzbekistan and Australia in which they drew 0-0 and lost 3-0 respectively and spent a week training in great facilities and connecting with the massive and very supportive Australian Lebanese community. This was a very successful trip as the players and coaching staff learned numerous lessons in the preparation for the Asian Cup.