Match Preview: Australia vs Lebanon | FIFA World Cup Qualifiers™


The Subway Socceroos continue their qualification journey for the FIFA World Cup 2026™, facing Lebanon on Thursday evening (8:00pm AEDT) at Parramatta’s Commbank Stadium.

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Australia return home for the first time in four months, having last defeated Bangladesh 7-0 in front of a boisterous Melbourne crowd. On this occasion, the Subway Socceroos will face Lebanon at Parramatta’s Commbank Stadium, in the third of six matches within Asia’s second round of qualifiers.

The green and gold enter the clash top of Group I, with a perfect record both in attack and defence, having won both its matches while conceding none and scoring eight.

Thursday will also mark the first game played by the Subway Socceroos since the AFC Asian Cup 2023™, held in Qatar during January, which saw a number of new faces break through into Graham Arnold’s starting side.

A lot of the Asian Cup squad has carried over to the March qualifiers, with a few notable exceptions. Equal top-scorer in the A-League this season, Adam Taggart, rejoins the squad having found a purple patch in his life, back in his hometown of Perth.

Ajdin Hrustic’s smart move to the Eredivisie in search of regular game-time has been rewarded, while former Olyroo and Central Coast Mariners star Joshua Nisbet enters his first national team camp, having replaced the injured Lewis Miller. 

Tom Glover and Brandon Borello round out the changes having been recognised for their improved form at both Middlesbrough and Western Sydney.

Their opponents for both Thursday night, and the following Tuesday, are 115th rank Lebanon, who enter the clash having drawn both qualifiers 0-0 against Palestine and Bangladesh. Their Asian Cup campaign meanwhile, saw defeats to eventual champions Qatar, along with a tight loss over Tajikistan and a tie against China.

Almost all of the 23-player squad ply their trade domestically in Lebanon’s top flight, with the most prominent star being 36-year-old captain Hassan Maatouk. 

Maatouk has appeared for his nation over 120 times since 2006, with the crafty winger’s combination play to his young and explosive teammates proving to be the major attacking threat that Graham Arnold’s squad will need to contend with.

The sides have only met on two occasions during their history, with the last meeting having been played in the same city as Thursday’s fixture, however the tie possessed a very different meaning.

Having announced his international retirement following the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Subway Socceroos’ record goal scorer Tim Cahill played out his final international during a friendly match in November of that year against the Lebanese, in the striker’s home region of Western Sydney. 

The match will also be remembered for the introduction of Martin Boyle to Australian supporters, with the Hibernian winger scoring twice in a 3-0 victory, with 2022 hero Mathew Leckie tapping home the third.

FIFA World Rankings

Australia: 23rd

Lebanon: 115th

Head-to-Head

Played: 2
Wins: 2
Draws: 0
Losses: 0

Insights

  • The three strikers selected in this squad (excluding Mitch Duke due to his league season just starting) – Bruno Fornaroli, Adam Taggart and Kusini Yengi – have goalscoring rates of 0.96, 0.81 and 1.00 per 90 respectively this campaign.
  • The average of those three forwards is an astonishing 0.92 per match
  • Mat Ryan has kept 10 clean sheets for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, while conceding just 12 goals across his 21 league matches
  • Jackson Irvine has averaged 0.49 goals and assists per match – an impressive haul for the St. Pauli midfielder and captain
  • Jordan Bos has made an average of two successful dribbles per match in Belgium’s First Division across his season, with a strong rate of 57.6% of his attempted dribbles succeeding
  • Joshua Nisbet has enjoyed a sensational A-League Men campaign, scoring two goals and assisting a league-high seven

What They Said

Graham Arnold

“The most important thing is pretty much to stick to what we’ve done. We’ve got one training session tonight to remind them of the tactical side of things. The worst thing I believe I can do is change too much and confuse, and when you confuse you get frustration. So it’s about keeping things very, very simple. What I expect to see tomorrow night is some real positive things in the final third, in 1v1 actions, and show the boys are going for it.”

That’s important for me, because I feel that middle third, we’re very, very good. We get to the final third and then a lot of it’s down to the individual. And that’s what I expect to see.”

“I think it’s great to see [Hrustic] back playing. I have been watching him play in Holland, but yesterday was probably the first time I’ve seen him live since, doing the training session, to see the 11 v 11. But it’s great to have him back, he brings that X factor for us that can change games and that’s important.”

“I think both teams are doing the same thing. They’re playing for the same reason, to qualify for through to the World Cup. With Lebanon coming out here, I’ve had to show my players what they bring physicality. They bring good determination and fight and we’ve got to match that.”

Maty Ryan

“The mood is good in camp, as it always is, that’s obviously what we would demand in terms of culture, to be part of the group, it’s nothing different to camps in the past. Obviously, the boys that played on Saturday night and Sunday are getting in a little bit later but everyone’s obviously been professional as we go about our business to prepare for Lebanon.”

“The game without fans and atmosphere is definitely not the same, we experienced that unfortunately during COVID. But we are very much looking forward to there being a big crowd in these two games. I was speaking with those organisers on the way here and they are pretty much assuring us that the game is close to being sold out. So it always makes it extra special when you get that and we’ll be looking to put on a good show.”

“We’ve obviously got to be respectful of every opposition that we come up against, and Lebanon is no different. They’ve got their threats, and their strengths. But you know, we’re confident in what we bring, in who we are as a team, that we can thwart any weapons that they have, and obviously unleash our own attacking style of play.”

“As long as long as I’ve been a part of those Socceroos set up, it’s always been very welcoming. Part of the Australian nature is to welcome your mates and work together with one another and [NIsbet] is obviously someone that gets the call up through his form for the Central Coast mariners this season and you can tell having met him and chatted to him a couple of times that he’s a real down to earth genuine kid and he’s here to to make us stronger and better.”

Joshua Nisbet

“It’s a dream come true. As an Australian, you always dream of playing for the Socceroos. I haven’t done that yet, but to potentially be given the opportunity, I’m really looking forward to it.”

“There was definitely a slight thought I could be in it [the Socceroos squad], and thankfully I am. I’ve just tried to play my game and enjoy the moment. You’re playing in the league, and you’re playing well, and then you keep building on that. Because you’re doing so well, you don’t really think about playing, you just think about the moment.”

“It was a very nice moment, but I think the reaction of my teammates was what was a really nice feeling. The club got informed, and Mark Jackson congratulated me for the player of the month for the PFA and then dropped that ‘you’re in the call-up’. He said ‘we got a call this morning that you’re in’ and I was pretty stoked. I didn’t really say much, and then I turn around and all my teammates are standing on their feet, clapping, cheering.”

Adam Taggart

“I cherish being in here, [Arnold] called me after the game he was over in Perth to watch, and we just had a bit of a chat about things. I was told I was up for selection in the upcoming camp, and I was over the moon. It was nice to hear from him and nice to know that I was in the fray.”

“When I’m happy off the field, I usually play my best football, and I think over the last four years in Asia, as great of a league and competition as they are, it’s difficult when you don’t have the support of family and friends. Going back home, being around family and friends and playing for a club that I’m passionate about and grew up supporting naturally, I feel happier and there’s less stress. You can enjoy your football.”

“There are lots of good strikers here, and there always have been, so I’m looking forward to contributing in whatever way possible. They’re all good players and good guys as well. Probably all different types of players as well.”

Cameron Burgess

“[Souttar’s] obviously got a hell of a record, everyone is delighted when he scores goals, and hopefully, I can get a couple myself. As long as we get wins and we reach our goal as a team, that’s the most important thing.”

“It’s easy to understand what the manager wants to do as well. We’re pretty well gelled. We all have a similar understanding and have played a few games together now so anyone new that I get the chance to play alongside, we have a good understanding and Harry’s no different. It didn’t take long for me to fit into what we do here, and the messages are always clear.”

“It’s a good group, a humble group. Everyone’s willing to work hard, and there are not too many times you have to remind boys of any standards. Everyone’s here because they’re doing well at their clubs and bringing those strengths that you do week in week out at your club is what gets you in the team here.”

Jackson Irvine

“These games just continually get harder as the competition in Asia gets more difficult. I think the standard is getting higher across the Confederation. All the way through, we’ve been tested more and more in these games as time has gone on.”

“All the strikers that are here are in great form, he said. You look at Tags [Adam Taggart] and Bruno [Fornaroli] scoring goals in the A-League. Kusini [Yengi] is having a fantastic season at Portsmouth, and [Mitchell] Duke is playing in J1 League now; I think they’re top of the league as well.”

“Six centre forwards in the squad is an exciting prospect for us, and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds over the next couple of games. We’ll be expecting another really big test on Thursday and Tuesday night.”

Riley McGree

“I think every every match against Asian teams can be quite difficult, I think we’ve really got to try and focus on what we can bring and how we can improve from the Asian Cup, and how we can do it in front of our home fans and use that to our advantage.”

“Obviously, [Asian Cup] didn’t go the way we ultimately planned and for what we wanted from it, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of things we can learn from it going forward into these qualifiers.”

“I love Middlesbrough. I’ve really taken it to be my second home almost away from Australia. And now we’re in a position now where we can hopefully capitalise with the last eight games and push for the playoffs.”

Socceroo #387 Abbas Saad

READ MORE: Australia embraced me’ says Lebanon-born Socceroo Abbas Saad

“It’s a hard task to play against the Socceroos, they’re in the top three in Asia at the moment and rightly so, they’ve been on a great run. But it’s great for those players to experience Australia and to get the support, and I think the stadium will probably be filled up with three quarters of the Lebanese community going and watching!”

I love the culture, that’s why we all love the Socceroos because it’s such a multicultural team,” he said.

“Kudos to Arnie (Graham Arnold), he’s built a wonderful team at the moment and he’s doing so well, but multiculturalism is such an important word I think in the current Socceroos setup. I embraced Australia and Australia embraced me and all I wanted to do was put the green and gold on and play for my country.”

MATCH DETAILS:

Subway Socceroos v Lebanon
Thursday, 21 March 2024
CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Tickets: Start from $20 Child, $25 Concession, $30 Adult, $80 Family via Ticketek
Broadcast: 10 Bold, 10 Play and Paramount+

Lebanon v Subway Socceroos
Tuesday, 26 March 2024
GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT
Tickets: Start from $15 Child, $20 Concession, $25 Adult, and $50 Family via Ticketek
Broadcast: 10 Bold, 10 Play and Paramount+





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