While Lebanon hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup and went out in the group stage, this is the first time they’ve ever qualified for one.
It coincides with the nation’s football revolution that has seen an expansive selection policy and raised professionalism to carry the team to new heights.
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This was most evident during their long road to Asian Cup qualification – and here’s how they qualified
2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
Drawn in Group G alongside South Korea, Kuwait, Myanmar and Laos, Lebanon finished runners-up behind South Korea and were then moved into the Asian Cup qualifying third round as the lowest-ranked runner-up team.
There were early signs of potential here – they were only beaten 1-0 by South Korea.
AFC Asian Cup
They were then in Group B – where the top two teams would qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Lebanon were drawn against North Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia, finishing top of the group and failing to lose a game.
Thrashing North Korea 5-0 was the standout result, but this was also a time that displayed the resilience and grit of the Lebanon team.
They scored several late goals – including a 90th-minute winner against Malaysia and an injury-time equaliser against North Korea.
Key player during qualification
Lebanon’s all-time leading goal-scorer and inspirational captain Hassan Maatouk dragged Lebanon over the line in qualification at times.
The 31-year-old left winger scored five goals in six Group B matches – ranging from stunning late equalisers and penalties.
He also had a hand in almost everything they did that was good, and registered three direct assists throughout qualification.
As the side’s genuine talisman, he has come to embody the newfound grit and spirit of the Lebanese team.
Asian Cup draw
Lebanon have been drawn against their Group B rivals in qualification North Korea, as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia in what is sure to be hyper-competitive Group E.
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