Dubai: Lebanon head into their match against Saudi Arabia at the Al Maktoum Stadium on Saturday needing a win to keep their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 hopes alive.
In their group opener against Qatar on Wednesday, Lebanon held their opponents to a goalless first half but was struck in the second half by goals from Bassam Al Rawi and Almoez Ali.
Sitting third in the group standings behind Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have three points each, Lebanon head coach Miodrag Radulovic said his team must aim for a win on Saturday.
“I told my players that we have to forget what happened in the last game, and all our focus is for the next game,” said the former Pakhtakor Tashkent coach.
“Saudi Arabia, I respect this team because they are a top-level team, a World Cup team even. Players of Saudi Arabia have experiences in big competitions like the World Cup and some play in Europe. They’re very organized and have quality in each position.
“It will be a very difficult game for us but I told my players during preparation that to achieve a good result, we need to think positively.”
It’s been 19 years since Lebanon featured in the Continental showpiece, with their first appearance in 2000 as hosts.
While Radolovic admits his charges lack experience, he is confident his players will deliver a dynamic performance against their West Asian rivals.
“Maybe we don’t have experience in such a competition and maybe we lost some concentration and were unlucky against Qatar, but now I hope it will be totally different from the start. I hope tomorrow we will be serious and disciplined from the first minute to the end of the game.
“It will be difficult but everything is possible. I repeat, I respect Saudi Arabia but I respect my team, and I believe in the character and quality of my players. There are still two games, everything is open, and we are going game-by-game.”
Saudi Arabia Juan Antonio Pizzi head coach said his team is geared up for the match.
“We are ready to play the game tomorrow.
“We hope we implement exactly what we have planned. Trusting in our capabilities, we hope to impose our style of play tomorrow.
“We achieved a good result against DPR Korea, and we hope we will continue with the same level of performance in the next game.”
“I already mentioned in the beginning that all the games and opponents are difficult, there is no such thing as an easy game or opponent. Each team has its own strategy, tactics, and strengths, and I think Lebanon is prepared to face us as a team.
“We have seen a few games of the Lebanese team, especially their first game of the tournament against Qatar, and the only way to beat them tomorrow is to put in the maximum effort against them.”