Hero Intercontinental Cup

Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 Rival Watch: Lebanon


June 6 2023

The Cedars are the highest-ranked team in the upcoming tournament.

India are set to go up against Mongolia, Vanuatu and Lebanon in the 2023 Hero Intercontinental Cup. The tournament is set to take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha from 9 June to 18 June 2023.

Lebanon is the highest-ranked team at the tournament among the four nations in FIFA rankings. They are 99th in FIFA rankings, while India hold the 101st rank. Vanuatu (164) and Mongolia (183) are much below in the rankings, but have the ability to spring up a surprise. 

The Lebanon national football team are likely to pose the toughest challenge to the Blue Tigers. Igor Stimac’s men are to face the Cedars on 15th June 2023. The top two teams from the group of four will meet in the final and these two may clash twice at the Hero Intercontinental Cup considering the strength, at least on paper. 

As the tournament approaches closer, here is a look at what Lebanon brings to the table.

Recent Performances

Lebanon’s national football team last took to the football pitch on 27 March 2023 against Oman in an international friendly. The game saw the Cedars suffer a 2-0 defeat against arguably stronger opponents while playing away from home.

Previous to the defeat in Muscat, Lebanon played two international friendlies against Kuwait and UAE. They lost both matches by a 1-0 and 2-0 scoreline respectively. Their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification fixtures (second round of matches) saw them lose three out of four games. The defeats came against South Korea, Iran, and Syria. However, they held the Iraq national football team to a 1-1 draw, which was an impressive result nonetheless.

Therefore, Lebanon enters the Intercontinental Cup with five defeats in their last six international matches, competitive and friendly.

About the team

Lebanon’s football team is tough to beat and often plays against stronger opponents to better themselves. They are the highest-ranked team at the 2023 Intercontinental Cup due to their decent performances over the years. Their highest-ever FIFA rank is 77 – one that they reached in September 2018.  

Even the heavyweights of African football like Egypt and Algeria found it difficult to beat them at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. Reaching the final round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers was a huge achievement for the Cedars. They have already secured a slot at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup too, taking their place in Group A alongside hosts Qatar, China and Tajikistan.

They are a force to reckon with on their day and are always improving under the watchful eyes of head coach Aleksandar Ilić of Serbia.

The Coach

Aleksandar Ilić is the head coach of the Lebanon national football team. The 53-year-old was appointed to lead the team in August 2022. He puts his faith in a 4-2-3-1 formation and believes in playing attacking football. 

Although Aleksandar Ilić is searching for his first-ever win as manager of Lebanon’s men’s national football team, the opponents at the Intercontinental Cup should not let the recent run of bad results underestimate his team.

Previously, he has been the manager at clubs like Al-Ahli, Radnicki Nis, Al-Raed, Al-Shorta SC and Al-Qadsiah FC. He won the Saudi Cup with Al-Ahli back in 2010-11 and the Iraqi Super Cup with Al-Shorta SC in 2018-19.

Aleksandar Ilić during his unveiling as Lebanon coach (Credit: AFC)

Player to Watch

Hassan Maatouk is the obvious choice when it comes to an individual who can make a difference in Lebanon’s squad. The 35-year-old is the captain of the national team and plays a creative role just behind the striker.

Hassan Maatouk celebrates a goal (Credit: FIFA)

He is the highest goalscorer of all time for the Cedars with 21 goals. Furthermore, he is also the most-capped player with 101 caps. Interestingly, he is the only individual to make more than a century of appearances for the Lebanon national football team.

What to Expect

Lebanon will provide the toughest challenge to India and be the biggest obstacle between the hosts and the trophy. India and Lebanon are favourites to secure the top two places in the group.

Players like Hassan Maatouk, Daniel Lajud and more can cause trouble for the opposition at the Intercontinental Cup. Igor Stimac will hope that his team can win both of its fixtures against Mongolia and Vanuatu before facing Lebanon in the final group game. 

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