Lebanon rocked by big injury toll
"I need to be put to bed."
That's what Lebanon winger Danny Barakat told his coach, Brad Fittler, following his side's bruising 34-0 loss to Australia at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
While they defended stoutly and asked a couple of questions in attack, injuries plagued the brave Lebanese who might struggle to find 17 fit players ahead of next week's likely quarter-final showdown with Tonga.
Skipper Robbie Farah came into the game with a heel injury, Michael Lichaa was forced off in the second half with an ankle complaint, while five-eighth Mitchell Moses also left the field with whiplash, although he says he will be fine.
However, the most crushing setback came 22 minutes into the contest when veteran Chris Saab was forced off with concussion after copping an accidental hit to the head by Kangaroos enforcer David Klemmer.
Saturday night's clash was Saab's World Cup debut, but the 35-year-old will now be racing the clock to prove his fitness ahead of next week's elimination game against the Pacific powerhouse.
Saab would have made his tournament debut in the game against France, but he was sensationally ruled out just minutes before kick-off after suffering a concussion in the warm-up that also kept him out against England.
The latest knock is a cruel blow to a man who has been the heart and soul of the team for the past 17 years.
"He's not good," Lebanon coach Brad Fittler said.
"He's wanted to play in this for a long time. He's been a really passionate Lebanese footballer. He's been playing for Lebanon for quite a while. He gives us a lot of energy around the camp and he's pretty disappointed."
The rugby league journeyman has been a source of inspiration for the young squad, and his teammates have their fingers crossed that he will be cleared to play next week.
"He's been there from the start. He had his first game in the 2000 qualifiers or something like that," Moses said.
"The stories he's been telling during the week about what he's done to play for Lebanon and have a full-time job outside of footy and still get to training in the arvo and put in, it really means a lot to him to put on the Lebanon jersey.
"For him to miss that first game against France in the warm-up and then to get knocked out again today, he'll be hurting a bit. We'll look to get him right for next week and get him to rip in."
Lebanon will head into next week's game against Tonga as rank outsiders, but Fittler believes there's no reason why they can't cause an upset; so long as they have 17 players to choose from.
"We just have to get a team. We just have to make sure the next couple of days we look after ourselves and we get a team," he said.
"You never know though. We frustrated Australia for a while so we'll see what we can do against Tonga if we get the chance.
"I'm not sure if we can pull some other people in from outside, but there's not really many we can call on. It'd be pretty hard to bring someone in at this stage."