Though Sierra Leone are the third-placed team in Group A of the Cote d’Ivoire 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, that has not stopped the Leone Stars from thinking of causing another upset in the group that has Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome and Principe.
Guinea Bissau, in March, caused a major upset, when they defeated the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Abuja in the early stage of the qualifying series. That is what Sierra Leone has promised to replicate on Sunday when they host Nigeria in Monrovia, Liberia.
The Leone Stars have five points from four matches against the nine points by the Super Eagles, while Guinea Bissau have seven points with Sao Tome and Principe sitting at the bottom of the table.
Speaking ahead of the clash with the Super Eagles, Leone Stars striker, Ismael Dumbuya, said he is optimistic of turning the table against the Super Eagles despite the availability of top stars in the Nigerian squad.
Dumbuya, who is based in Liberia, is one of the late calls up into the team after seven of their invited players dropped out of the squad.
Speaking through the Sierra Leone Football Association, Dumbuya said their main goal is to beat Nigeria on Sunday. “I hope to make the final squad for the game against Nigeria, and our target is to beat Nigeria and qualify for the next AFCON,” he said.
A win for the Leone Stars on Sunday will revitalise their hope of qualifying for the 2023 African Cup of Nations to be hosted in Cote d’Ivoire.
Meanwhile, captain of the Leone Stars, Steven Caulker, is a major doubt for the game, according to BSNSports.com.ng reports.
Coach John Keister released the list of invited players for the game last week and Caulker’s name was among the invitees. But the former Fulham defender sustained the injury while representing his club, Wigan, in a league game. Although he underwent a successful surgery, he is still recuperating barely four days before the game.
He gave the update through his social media handle on Wednesday. “Being injured is certainly not fun. This new treatment delivered by St. James Wellbeing Clinic is brutally painful but super effective,” he posted.
Three-time champions, Nigeria, will fire from all cylinders at the Paynesville, conscious that second-placed Guinea Bissau, two points behind, are likely to inflict defeat on group whipping boys, Sao Tome and Principe, in the other match of the pool.
In the last weeks of 2020, the Leone Stars famously came from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with the Super Eagles at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City in another Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match (Cameroun 2021), and few days later, held the Eagles to a barren draw at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown.
When both teams clashed on Day 1 of the ongoing series at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja a year ago, the Leone Stars drew the first blood before goals by Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen put Nigeria in the driving seat. The Eagles flew to Agadir, Morocco some days later to inflict a 10-0 defeat on Sao Tome and Principe, in the event setting a new international win-record.
All of Nigeria’s invited players for the game are now in Super Eagles’ camp in Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Hostilities at the 22,000-capacity arena will begin by 5.00p.m. Nigeria time (4.00 p.m. Liberia time) as the Super Eagles seek to reach the finals of the competition early next year, with a game to spare.
For the last edition of Africa’s flagship football championship, the Super Eagles qualified for the finals with a game to spare after Paul Onuachu headed in with few minutes left against Benin Republic’s Guepards in Porto Novo.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has appointed Sudanese official, Mahmood Ali Ismail, as the referee, with his compatriot, Mohammed Abdallah Ibrahim, as assistant referee 1. Liban Abdourazak Ahmed from Djibouti will serve as assistant referee 2, with Mohamed Diraneh Guedi, also from Djibouti, in the role of fourth official.
Gambia’s Bakary Jammeh will be the commissioner, while Kokou Djaoupe from Togo will serve as referee assessor.
Credit: The Guardian
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