- Goalkeeper Mahdi Khalil spectacular throughout Qatar 2022 qualifiers
- Just one objective conceded in 4 video games
- The Cedars presently second in Group H
Lebanon is a Mediterranean nation identified for its geographic range, significantly the excessive mountain ranges within the east and west that reach in parallel traces nearly the whole size of the nation.
But Lebanon has one more towering “mountain” within the type of gifted keeper Mahdi Khalil, who has made his objective an impenetrable fortress by protecting clear sheets in his nation’s final three matches within the AFC qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
The 1.96 m shot-stopper spoke completely to FIFA.com about his nation’s qualifying marketing campaign, by which the Cedars presently lie second in Group H on seven factors, stage with Korea Republic, the place the remaining group video games will all be held within the coming weeks.
The 29-12 months-outdated described the qualifiers as “difficult” because they “include a strong team like Korea Republic and very sophisticated sides like Turkmenistan.”
Asked concerning the secret behind his distinctive performances within the qualifiers, the place he has solely conceded one objective in 4 matches, Khalil replied with fun, saying: “There is not any secret, actually. It’s easy, I prepare with a variety of enthusiasm and work arduous to realize constructive outcomes. It’s a blessing from God, and I hope I’ll proceed to do effectively each at membership and nationwide stage.”
Khalil started his soccer journey in Sierra Leone as a 12-12 months-outdated earlier than occurring mortgage for 2 skilled stints to Sweden. In 2013, he moved to Lebanon to hitch Safa SC, the place he received the Lebanese league twice, earlier than persevering with his success there with Al Ahed Club with one other two league titles.
Khalil performed his half in Lebanon’s qualification for the Asian Cup in 2019, the identical 12 months he helped Al Ahed turn into the primary Lebanese membership to win the AFC Cup, choosing up the match’s MVP award within the course of. Interest adopted from IR Iran’s Zob Ahan, who took him on mortgage firstly of final 12 months.
Asked concerning the huge expertise gained up to now in his profession, the participant often known as ‘The Mountain’ stated: “Winning the AFC Cup with Al Ahed helped me enhance my efficiency. I used to be additionally named the Most Valuable Player with the assistance of my crew-mates, who performed brilliantly and contributed to the success.
“In every match I play, whether for club or country, I gain new experiences, but the most important thing for me as a player is to be physically and mentally alert so as to give my best in every game.”
Regarding his transfer to IR Iran, he stated: “The starting of my expertise was good, and I realized an incredible deal from enjoying towards huge groups there. I matured significantly, and that was mirrored in my performances. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the dying of my father, I used to be affected psychologically and emotionally. Everything was turned on its head, and the expertise ended abruptly.”
Tough confrontations forward
Khalil shall be one of many key crew members coach Jamal Taha shall be counting on for Lebanon’s subsequent three matches within the Qatar 2022 qualifiers: Sri Lanka (5 June), Turkmenistan (9 June) and Korea Republic (13 June).
The keeper, who welcomed his first baby final week, stated: “We have three matches left, two of which shall be excessive stage encounters. We should do our greatest in these video games to hopefully acquire 9 factors and maintain alive our possibilities of advancing to the following spherical.
“I don’t think our mission is impossible, but at the same time it’s not easy, and we have to fight until the last minute. If we have the utmost faith in ourselves and our abilities, we can achieve our goals and get closer to the World Cup.”
Lebanon’s last fixture shall be towards hosts Korea Republic, who’ve an array of prime professionals of their ranks led by Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heungmin. As it occurs, Khalil has confronted Son earlier than and prevented him from scoring in a match at Beirut Sports City Stadium on 14 November 2019.
“I’ve performed towards South Korea twice earlier than. I carried out effectively, and I feel these two matches have been the very best of my profession,” he stated.
“The Koreans have many top players, and this gives me a huge incentive to perform really well and show my abilities. Facing stars who play in the top European leagues is a personal challenge for me,” he stated on the finish of dialog.
Khalil’s supreme confidence is another excuse why the Lebanese imagine they’ll nonetheless attain the third and decisive spherical of qualifiers for Qatar 2022. After all, they’ve a ‘Mountain’ they’ll lean on.