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21/02/2019
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Will Lebanon give New Zealand a defiant reception at sold out Nouhad Nawfal?

ZOUK MIKHAEL (Lebanon) - Lebanon will practically be fighting for their lives in the final Asian Qualifiers window, and their first opponents will be no less than WorldCup-bound New Zealand.

Key matchup:

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Wael Arakji's absence took a toll on Lebanon in the previous windows. His scoring and playmaking were sorely missed, and it spelled the difference in a few of the Cedars' close matches. With Arakji back in tow, Lebanese fans are hoping for a much more explosive performance from their national team, and it couldn't come at a more opportune time as they need two wins in the final window to ensure safe passage to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. Hoping to hamper Arakji's production will be New Zealand floor general Shea Ili, who can certainly hold his own. Ili was, of course, named to the All-Star Five in the FIBA Asia Cup two years ago, and he will surely give Arakji a run for his money.

X-factor:

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Tonight we will fight to death. Watch us support us at 930. #lebanon #fibaasiacc

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Lebanon's Ali Haidar will have his hands full against New Zealand, who will parade a frontline composed of Rob Loe, Tom Abercrombie, Jordan Ngatai and Reuben Te Rangi among others. Still, Haidar has the tools to bring some hurt on the Tall Blacks, especially if he is locked and loaded. The 6ft 7in (2.01m) Haidar has the size, heft and shooting to put up a strong challenge against New Zealand, though in their previous match he underwhelmed with just 6 points on 3-of-11 field goal shooting. If the 28-year-old big man can regain his sharpness, however, then Lebanon should be in good shape to win.

Lebanon outlook:

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The Cedars are looking fresh and motivated entering the final Asian Qualifiers window. With a more complete line-up, they are all set to unleash their full potential on the visiting Tall Blacks. The inside-outside pairing of Haidar and Arakji should be a focal point for Lebanon's offense, while other stalwarts like Ater Majok, Ahmad Ibrahim and Amir Saoud are also expected to significantly contribute. If the Cedars click on all cylinders, they should have a shot at pulling the rug from under the Tall Blacks.

New Zealand outlook:

 
Coach Paul Henare's crew have already qualified for the World Cup, but that doesn't mean they're taking this game lightly. Bannered by many veterans, New Zealand are sending a message that they won't overlook any of their remaining fixtures. Tom Abercrombie, Reuben Te Rangi, Rob Loe and Shea Ili are expected to carry this squad, who are looking to improve their seeding heading into the World Cup by trying to win their tenth and eleventh games of the Asian Qualifiers.

FIBA