Lebanon’s form in the third round of qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has been nothing short of stunning. All that stands between them now and a place in the fourth and final qualifying phase is their final Group B opponents UAE, who they face in Abu Dhabi on 29 February needing just a point to guarantee their progress.
Lebanon’s players are understandably counting down the days, and none more so than attacking midfielder Akram Moghrabi, scorer of his side’s second goal in their 3-1 home defeat of UAE last September – a result that began a sequence of three wins and a draw from four games.
Moghrabi talked to FIFA.com about the secrets of Lebanon’s remarkable qualifying form and his thoughts on the showdown with UAE at the end of the month.
Hunger for success
The Lebanese players have shown admirable commitment and desire thus far in the Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign and Moghrabi is understandably determined to cap it with a win against UAE to progress further.
“The odds of us going through are very good,” the 26-year-old said: “Probably 90 per cent at least. At the same time we have to go into the game determined to get the three points and control our destiny. The result from the other Group B game [between Korea Republic and Kuwait] shouldn’t be on our minds at all.”
Although the young playmaker dreams of a starring role in the upcoming clash, he is well aware that success is first and foremost the product of teamwork: “The goal I scored in our first match was important for sure, but no more so than those of my teammates. It really doesn’t matter who puts them away – all we really care about is winning and going through.”
Asked how it felt to score that goal in Beirut, Moghrabi replied with a smile: “It was an indescribable feeling. It meant so much to me to score in a World Cup qualifier and make a modest contribution to my country’s progress.”
While the Cedars’ achievements in beating UAE, Kuwait and Asian giants Korea Republic has stunned many observers, Moghrabi seems to be taking it all in his stride. “It wasn’t a surprise at all, to be honest,” he said. “It’s a natural result of the exceptional morale and team spirit in the group. Just as important has been the efforts of the coaching staff and the great support we’ve had from our national association. That’s given the players a huge boost and turned them into warriors.”
Then there is the impact of coach Theo Bucker. Moghrabi cannot speak highly enough of the experienced German, saying: “Theo has worked so hard for us and he’s continuing to give the team everything it needs to produce great results.”
Looking to the future
His side’s five Group B matches have produced some of the best performances in Lebanon’s history, and the man who plies his trade for Al Nijmeh believes this recent success bodes well for the future.
“We hope to reach the fourth round,” he said, “and if we manage that, then we’ve got the attitude to go all the way to the World Cup finals. That would be a new challenge but you can be sure we’ll approach it with the same determination we’ve shown so far.”
Moghrabi himself harbours ambitions of playing abroad. A number of his teammates have been snapped up by foreign clubs in the wake of Lebanon’s recent form, and he hopes to follow in their footsteps.
“The team have been superb,” the midfielder said, “which is why a lot of our players have been able to sign for overseas clubs. I’d really like to get the chance myself and, if an opportunity does arise, I know Al Nijmeh won’t stand in my way.”
Only time will tell if a move materialises, but for now he remains fully focused on helping his side take another giant step on the road to Brazil.