Graham Arnold is delighted the Socceroos will play their 'away' clash against Lebanon in Canberra. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
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Conflict forces Socceroos-Lebanon clash to Canberra

George Clarke March 1, 2024

The Socceroos have been given an extra leg-up in their World Cup qualification campaign after their away clash with Lebanon was moved to Canberra.

Australia were already due to host Lebanon in Sydney on Thursday, March 21 but the location of the return leg – to be played in the same window – was uncertain because of the Middle East conflict.

The Lebanese Football Federation has been unable to gain clearance from the AFC to host games on home soil and their most recent “home” qualifier – against Palestine in November – was moved to the UAE.

Instead of travelling to the Middle East to play at a neutral venue, Australia will be given a boost of home support as they bid to reach the third and final round of qualification.

GIO Stadium will host the game on Tuesday, March 26, marking the Socceroos’ return to the national capital for the first time since 2019 when they romped to a 5-0 win over Nepal.

Two wins over Lebanon would guarantee Graham Arnold’s men a passage to the final stage of qualification for the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

 James Johnson says Football Australia were happy to assist Lebanon under difficult circumstances. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

“I think it’s fantastic we’ve been able to assist a member of our confederation who is facing challenging times,” Arnold said.

“Throughout my time as head coach, we’ve had limited opportunities to play in front of home crowds, so to have two matches in this window in Australia is extremely pleasing.

“I know the players are looking forward to coming home, and we’re expecting Lebanon to throw everything at us in what will be two important matches in our pursuit of the third round of qualification.”

The Socceroos beat Lebanon in their two previous meetings in 2012 and 2018 and have enjoyed a perfect start to qualification thus far with a 7-0 romp over Bangladesh and a hard-fought 1-0 slog against Palestine.

“We’ve been assisting them in the delivery of this match, doing anything we can to support them in what are difficult circumstances,” said FA chief executive James Johnson.

“Our game has an amazing ability to bring people together and our work with Lebanon is the perfect example of that.

“For all intents and purposes this is a home game for Lebanon, despite it being played on Australian soil.”