Later 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.
It has surely been a very difficult international break for the Lebanese squad, following the defeat to North Korea with a 1-0 loss in Oman, making it three defeats in a row and 4 out of 6 for new head coach Liviu Ciobotariu. These results and the performances that led to them have diluted the optimism and positivity that followed the West Asian Championships and have put a lot of pressure on the next match in Beirut against Turkmenistan.
Lebanon kicked off their 2022 World Cup Qualifying campaign in Pyongyang on Thursday with a 2-0 defeat against familiar foes North Korea. Two goals by Jong Il-Gwan were enough to see the hosts claim an important victory, with Lebanon captain Hassan Maatouk missing two good chances including a second-half penalty. The victory puts North Korea in a very good position ahead of their trip to group underdogs Sri Lanka. On the other hand, there are already questions being asked of Lebanon and their new head coach after the loss.
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.
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.