Meet the Asia Cup 2022 Teams: Lebanon
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Lebanon were the first team to celebrate Asia Cup qualification after winning their first four games of the Qualifiers and went on to stay undefeated. They are a proud basketball nation, transitioning into the next generation which they are hoping to put on display at Asia Cup 2022.
Let’s take a quick moment to meet Lebanon in this "Meet the Teams" series!
World Rank according to FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike: 54
Lebanon have always been among the top teams in Asia & Oceania, currently ranked at 9th in the region. However, the expectations are always high as would be expected from such a basketball-crazed nation.
The fans are hoping that this current up-and-coming young squad can boost the team up in the ranking to newer heights.
Asia Cup Debut: 1999
Lebanon’s first appearance at the Asia Cup wasn’t completely picture-perfect, but it was pretty close.
In their first three games, Lebanon went undefeated including a win over eventual Asia Cup 1999 finalists Korea. However, the tables were turned at the Quarter-Finals when they suffered three straight defeats afterwards.
Lebanon ended up at 7th place in the final standings in their debut, but a bright future was envisioned ahead at that moment.
Asia Cup Appearances (including 2022): 10
Since 1999, Lebanon have missed out playing in only one Asia Cup in 2013. They’ve never finished lower than their 7th place finish in their Asia Cup debut.
Lebanon went on a peak run of five straight Semi-Finals appearances through the 2000s. No other team since 2000 are able to make that same claim - not even China, Iran, or Korea.
Most Recent Appearance: 2017
Asia Cup 2017 was a special one for Lebanon as it was the first time ever that they had hosted the event in the country. Even though they unfortunately were unable to finish on the podium, the fans showed up and showcased why they are regarded as one of the most passionate groups out there.
It was also the last major national team competition for Lebanon legend Fadi El Khatib who put on a stellar performance by leading the entire tournament in scoring at 25.9 points per game.
Best Position in Final Standings: 2nd place (2001, 2005, 2007)
China might have been revered for their dominant stretch through the early 2000s led by Yao Ming which resulted in three Asia Cup titles, but Lebanon were right behind them, nipping at their heels.
Powered by El Khatib in his prime, Ali Mahmoud, and Joe Vogel for most of the part, Lebanon were able to make it the championship game three out of four times from 2001 to 2007. Even though they were unable to claim that final victory in each of the tournaments, it’s a successful run that will be tough to match.
Notable Player(s): Fadi El Khatib
El Khatib is not only a legend in Lebanon, he’s a legend of Asia Cup basketball and is well-regarded as one of the best small forwards ever to play in the Asia Cup.
Aside from being among the leading scorers in each Asia Cup he plays in, El Khatib stands out for his longevity of playing at a high level. From starring in his debut back in 1999 to his national team retirement run in 2017, El Khatib always made sure to put on a show of pure class in the Asia Cup.
How they got here:
Lebanon went undefeated through their Qualifiers run with an average margin of victory of 26.8 points, including a 55-point drubbing against India.
Their offensive firepower was on display from start to finish as the Cedars ended up leading the Asia Cup Qualifiers in scoring with 99.5 points per game. They were also one of the most efficient offensive teams in the Qualifiers, finishing second in both field goal percentage (50.1 percent) and three-point shooting percentage (40.3 percent).
Current Outlook: Next Generation
Younger stars are starting to take the stage for Lebanon. It’s been a transition phase for Lebanon as the fans have been able to see through the Qualifiers, but the young guns have done quite well.
Wael Arakji is coming into his own as a star and a leader. He showed the way for the other youngsters by averaging 19.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 53.6 percent shooting from the field, 55.6 shooting from the three-point line, and a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line.
That should set a good example for the up-and-coming talents like Karim Zeinoun and Segio El Darwich, among others, to follow suit.
There might be some growing pains as this young group continues to collect experience, but the ceiling should be high heading into Asia Cup 2022.