The Lebanese national football team will be quietly confident of reaching the second round of World Cup 2018 qualification after the Cedars were pitted against South Korea, Kuwait, Myanmar and Laos in Group G in Tuesday’s draw.
The revamped qualification process offers the added bonus of Asian Cup 2019 entry, with the eight group winners along with the four best runners-up securing a place in the second round of World Cup qualification as well as the continent’s showpiece event in four years’ time.
The teams that miss out will be placed into another round of Asian Cup qualifiers.
The World Cup qualifiers will begin June 11 and run through to March of next year.
At Tuesday’s draw in Malaysia, the top eight teams were separated into eight separate pools, each with five teams.
The reigning Asian champions Australia drew Jordan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh in Group B.
“The draw is certainly an interesting one and throws up some games against unfamiliar countries,” the Australian head coach Ange Postecoglou told reporters.
“We will face some logistical and footballing challenges, but we’ll continue to work hard to make sure we are ready for whatever challenges we face.”
Regional heavyweights Japan were drawn in Group E with Syria, Afghanistan, Singapore and Cambodia, while Iran, Asia’s top-ranked country, ended up in Group D with India, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam.
Iraq were drawn in Group F with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, while Uzbekistan were placed alongside North Korea, Yemen, Bahrain and Philippines in Group H.
The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which started the first round of qualifiers as the world’s worst team, according to FIFA rankings, was chosen in Group C with China, Hong Kong, Maldives and Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts.
Saudi Arabia ended up in Group A with Palestine, East Timor, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates, the host of the next Asian Cup, in 2019.
Each of the 40 countries will play home and away against the four other sides in their group.