Lebanon’s Asian Cup adventure came to a tragic ending as the Cedars, despite beating North Korea 4-1, were unable to qualify for the Knockout Stages. However, notwithstanding the disappointing results, the players made us proud with their performances and were unlucky and deserved to be in the last 16. But while some players shone on the continental stage, others that did not perform to the best of their abilities. Here I will be rating every player’s performances 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.
In their last group game on Thursday night, Lebanon managed to win 4-1 against North Korea, which meant that they ended the group stages with 3 points, a -1 goal difference and 4 goals scored, exactly like Vietnam, the third-placed team in Group D. However, unfortunately, Lebanon’s overall tally of 7 yellow cards compared to Vietnam’s 5 means that Vietnam proceed to the next round instead of the Cedars through the fair-play rule that comes as a controversial tiebreaker after points, goal difference and goals scored. What a devastating way for the Cedars to go.
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.
After the 2-0 defeat to Qatar on Matchday 1, The Cedars were under a little bit of pressure to get a result against big favourites Saudi Arabia in order to get themselves in a favourable position to qualify for the second round for the first time in their history. However, unfortunately, despite putting in a decent performance and giving a good account of themselves, the Cedars ultimately fell short as Saudi Arabia ran out 2-0 winners on Saturday at the beautiful, newly-renovated, Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. The all-Arab affair saw a decent crowd attend the game and the atmosphere was great, even if the official attendance of 13000 seems like a stretch with regards to what we saw inside the stadium. But, in the end, Lebanon were unable to get a result against the three-times Asian champions and will now need a win in their last game and other results to go their way if they are to make it to the last 16.
On Saturday, Lebanon will play their second game in this year’s Asian Cup in Dubai’s newly renovated Al Maktoum Stadium, facing group favourites Saudi Arabia. The Cedars enter this match as clear underdogs and with increased pressure following the defeat to Qatar, but there is belief in the camp that an upset can be caused.
Lebanon started their Asian Cup 2019 campaign on Wednesday night in the beautiful Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain and unfortunately, despite the optimism going into the campaign, they were beaten 2-0 by the young exciting team of Qatar. The game was tight for about an hour, with Lebanon’s excellent defensive organization proving hard to break down for the Qataris, but in the end, their quality shone through, as Lebanon were left ruing their bad luck. Indeed, Chinese referee Ma Ning was in the spotlight, disallowing a perfectly valid Lebanese goal in the first half, and then wrongly handing the Qataris a free-kick from which they scored in the second.
Lebanon head coach Miodrag Radulovic has now announced his final 23-man squad for the Asian Cup, and there weren’t many surprises. However, Nejmeh goalkeeper Abbas Hassan, Ansar defender Nassar Nassar and Bromley striker Omar Bugiel are all out because of injury. They are joined by Tadamon Sour goalkeeper Hadi Mortada and Ahed midfielder Hussein Monzer as the group of players left out, with the exclusion of the latter two being expected given their call-up to the preliminary squad was their first with the senior National Team. So let’s get to know the 23 players who will be in the UAE for the Asian Cup.
The Lebanese National Team has now returned from their two-week long camp in Bahrain, the last big stage of their preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup. They will be training in Beirut for the next week before flying out to the UAE on Saturday morning.