Opposition Watch: The in-form forward ready to lead Lebanon's charge

Hilal El-Helwe


The Caltex Socceroos are unlikely to have an easy ride when they meet long-unbeaten Lebanon in Sydney on November 20.

The Cedars are getting set to join Australia at next year's AFC Asian Cup and will be eyeing the kind of upset that could inspire them to greater heights in Jordan.

In Hilal El-Helwe, they look to have just the player to cause a shockwave or two.

Here, we take a look at a young winger blessed with the pace and power to cause problems.

TICKETS: How to see the Caltex Socceroos take on Lebanon in Sydney
FAREWELL: Tim Cahill to receive special send-off against Lebanon
DEFYING THE ODDS: How Lebanon are thriving ahead of Caltex Socceroos clash

Hilal El-Helwe
El-Helwe in action for Wolsburg.

Climbing the ladder

El-Helwe has been the beneficiary of Lebanon boss Miodrag Radulovic's aggressive investment in youth.

"I found Hilal El-Helwe in the fourth division of Germany, now he is playing in the top division in Greece," Radulovic remarked in an interview with Arab News in August.

At the time of his first call-up in 2015, he was playing for humble TSV Havelse in the Regionalliga Nord - the fourth tier of German football.

It was there, thanks to 16 league goals in two seasons, that he came to the attention of Wolfsburg, who signed the then-teenager to play in their reserve side.

A further seven goals in 13 starts proved the winger was ready for the next level and third-tier Hallescher swooped, providing what became El-Helwe's launching pad to greater European prominence.

Adapting to Apollon


Two seasons at Hallescher allowed El-Helwe to begin making a bigger name, the tall attacker racking up 55 appearances in 3. Liga and helping the club finish 13th in consecutive campaigns.

He soon found himself in the frame for another move and earlier this year sealed a dream switch to the Greek Superleague.

Newly promoted Apollon brought in the 23-year-old to add firepower on their return to the top flight. The gamble paid off as soon as his third match.

Injected off the bench against Giannina over the weekend, El-Helwe needed just six minutes to find space in the box and poke home his maiden goal for the club.

It wasn't enough to save Apollon from a 2-1 defeat, but it does came as a major confidence boost ahead of his return to international duty.

Scoring form

It's not just at club level that El-Helwe is showing a nose for goal.

In their final AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia in March, Lebanon's bright young talent produced a goal to savour, volleying home in the 94th minute to give the hosts a last-gasp 2-1 victory.

It was the third strike of an international career that, after 16 caps, is as promising as it is raw.

With the physicality to challenge aerially, pace to puzzle full-backs and an undoubted ability to score goals, El-Helwe looms as a genuine handful for Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury and company come the November clash.