AFC Asian Cup 2019, Team Preview: Lebanon
Lebanon face an arduous task in the opening two games of the 2019 Asian Cup in Emirates. Montenegrin coach Miodrag Radulovic has an experienced squad but feels his team needs to play an attacking brand of football to progress to the knock-outs.
Lebanon did not qualify for the 2015 edition after suffering heavy defeats against Iran in the qualification matches. Kuwait skirted them out after holding Iran to a 1-1 draw. Even though they grabbed eight points, they lost out to China as the best third-placed team on goal difference. Hassan Maatouk scored three goals during the 2015 qualifiers.
Lebanon will compete in their second Asian Cup after they exited in the Group Stages in 2000 where they drew two games and suffered one defeat. They are still in search for their initial victory at the Asian Cup.
They have featured in just three international matches in 2018. They registered one victory against Jordan and held Uzbekistan to a 0-0 draw. They lost to Kuwait and Australia to end a disappointing preparation for the Asian Championships.
Cedar’s top-scorer in the 2015 and 2019 AFC Qualifiers, Hassan Maatouk will once more be their key player to escort them through the last sixteen. With his ability to strike with both feet combined with his broad vision and dribbling skills, he has tallied 19 goals from 72 appearances and remains one goal short of equalling Roda Antar’s record as Lebanon’s all-time goal-scorer. He plays for Nejmeh in the Lebanese league.
Thirty-year-old defender Joan Oumari brings in his experience of playing in the German lower leagues and also in the Turkish and Japanese league. He plies his trade with Emirati club Al Nasr and has scored two goals from 19 appearances for the National team.
Wednesday, 09 January 2019: Lebanon (81) vs Qatar (93) - Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 21:30 IST.
Saturday, 12 January 2019: Lebanon (81) vs Saudi Arabia (69) - Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 21:30 IST.
Thursday, 17 January 2019: Lebanon (81) vs North Korea (109) - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah at 21:30 IST.
Lebanon embark on their campaign against Qatar against whom they have lost seven of their past eight matches with one drawn encounter. On current form, I expect Qatar to come out on top. The Cedars have managed just two victories over the Saudis and should face a defeat against their regional rivals. I expect them to win against North Korea and finish in third place in Group E.
They face Iran in the round of sixteen which could turn out to be their last game in action at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Average Age: 28 years.
International Caps: 632.
International Goals: 47.
Head Coach: Miodrag Radulović (Montenegro).
Goalkeepers: Mehdi Khalil (Ahed), Ahmad Taktouk (Safa'), Mostafa Matar (Salam Zgharta).
Defenders: Kassem El Zein (Nejmeh), Moataz Al Junaidi (Ansar), Nour Mansour (Ahed), Joan Oumari (Al-Nasr), Robert Alexander Melki (AFC Eskilstuna), Mohamed Zein Tahan (Safa'), Walid Ismail (Salam Zgharta), Ali Hamam (Nejmeh).
Midfielders: Samir Ayass (Ahed), Mohamad Haidar (Ahed), Adnan Haidar (Ansar), George Felix Melki (AFC Eskilstuna), Nader Matar (Nejmeh), Haitham Faour (Ahed), Shibriko (Ansar).
Strikers: Hassan Maatouk (captain) (Nejmeh), Moni (Ansar), Hilal El-Helwe (Apollon Smyrnis), Rabih Ataya (Ahed), Bassel Jradi (Hajduk Split).