Ranked 105th internationally, the Libyan national football team face an uphill
Ranked 105th internationally, the Libyan national football team face an uphill struggle to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The so-called ‘Mediterranean Knights’ have never qualified for a World Cup and while they are ranked in the top 13 teams on the African continent, they have been placed in a tough qualifying group alongside four-time qualifiers Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – who appeared at the 1974 World Cup as Zaire – and rising-stars Guinea.
“The team’s failure to qualify is inevitable,” says Khaled Merghani, a former striker of the Libyan team. “All the achievements made by the Libyan team over the past years are temporary and are not based on thoughtful planning. Sports infrastructure in Libya has completely collapsed, and qualifying for the World Cup at the moment may be a fantasy.”
The national team’s prospects have been dealt a further blow by the news of the departure of Spanish manager Javier Clemente, according to a statement by Libyan Football Federation Anwar Tashani. Tashani has not yet named a replacement. Clemente is set to only take charge of the first two qualifiers, including a key match against neighbours Tunisia on November 7 in Cairo. The national team plays all its home matches in neighbouring countries, a fact that further adversely affects the team, say officials.
“Nothing is impossible in football”
“Frankly speaking, our chances are not great like other teams,” says Abdulmoneim Darssi, a member of the Media Committee of the Libyan Football Federation (LFF). “Nothing is in our favour. We are neither playing at home, nor do we have a regular league. It is only natural that our chances are poor. Hope however springs eternal and nothing is impossible in football.”
A former coach has echoed such fighting talk. “Our chances are good in light of the capabilities of the other teams in the group,” Mohamed Ben Mokhtar, a Libyan coach, told Correspondents. “This is however conditional on LFF’s material and technical support.”
The head-to-head record of Libya against the two strongest teams in the group is in favour of no one. Libya has played against neighbour Tunisian 13 times: Both won six and one match ended in a draw.
Libya reached the group stage after beating Rwanda 1-0 and 3-1 in the second round. The top teams in the five African groups will qualify for the tournament in Russia in 2018.