As the Lebanon Cedars prepare for their first AFC Asian Cup appearance since 2000, their faithful fans are asking the question. Is this team the best Lebanese team ever?
According the latest FIFA World Rankings, the answer is yes. Lebanon is currently ranked 79th in the world, its highest ranking ever, one behind China and one ahead of the United Arab Emirates. Lebanon is now the 9th highest ranked team in the Asian Football Confederation.
What is the reason behind the rise of Lebanon who were ranked a lowly 155th in the rankings in March 2017?
The secret to rising 76 places in the FIFA rankings was a 16-game unbeaten streak under Montenegrin coach Miodrag Radulovic that was finally broken in a 1-0 loss to Kuwait recently.
For two years and five months, the Lebanon Cedars did not taste defeat and Radulovic expects the Lebanon team to progress further than their last AFC Asian Cup appearance in 2000 when they exited in the group stage.
Radulovic says: “We have a new team, a new generation who are extremely talented. They have a great spirit, and this is because I have worked a lot with the players individually and try to push them to have confidence. You can see this has worked. No-one believed in Lebanon when qualifying started but we won the group.”
For the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in the UAE, Lebanon is in Group E with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, DPR Korea and the Cedars will play their opening Asian Cup match against Qatar on January 9, 2019 in Al-Ain in the UAE.
Radulovic is confident Lebanon will progress in the tournament: “We will try to show everybody that our hard work has been worth it. We will not be there as tourists and we will fight for every goal and every point. I think we will represent Lebanese football very well.”
The Lebanon Cedars will play against the Caltex Socceroos for the first time in Australia on November 20 at ANZ Stadium.
Teams: Caltex Socceroos v Lebanon Cedars
Date: Tuesday 20 November 2018
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush
Kick Off: 7.30pm AEDT
Gates Open: 6.00pm AEDT
Family passes start from $55
Buy tickets online: http://bit.ly/AUSvLEB