MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR the SCORPIONS
Friday, June 15, 2012
It will be a moment of truth, make or break for the Scorpions of The Gambia when they take on the Fennecs of Algeria in the second leg of the 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifiers in Blida, today with kickoff set at 7:30pm local time.
Coach Luciano Mancini’s charges hosted at the Hotel Safir Mazaphran in Zeralda since their arrivalin Algiers on Monday will enter the game at Blida’s Mustapha Tchaker Stadium coming from the back of a demoralising 2-1 defeat in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Banjul at the end of February, the Gambian team that did not score a goal in the North African country in two previous visits have to score twice without reply in order to reach the second and final round of qualifiers. But the Algerians believe that only a massive upset will deny them chance to advance.
But the home side will also play under a cloud of letting a lead slip and losing 2-1 last Sunday night in a World Cup tie with Mali. The Gambia arrived in Algeria on Monday directly from Tanzania, where they had lost in a World Cup qualifier at the weekend to a late penalty.
A week before, the Scorpions had a morale boosting draw with highly-fancied Morocco, which will give them some hope against Algeria. But Luciano Mancini’s side have been winless in international football for 10 months with their last win dating back to August of last year in a 3-0 friendly win over the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Halilhodzic’s side will again look to the leadership of Majid Bougherra in
defence and hope that Rafik Djebour might yet return from injury to once again
lead the attack. He missed the last match against Mali. Algeria will have to
make do without the services of Nadir Belhadj and Karim Matmour who have joined
Antar Yahia in announcing their retirement from international football.
Algeria have hosted Gambia twice before in competitive matches, beating them 1-0 to a dubious 81st minute penalty in Algiers in the 2008 Nations Cup qualifiers and 1-0 in Blida also under controversial circumstances in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. There have been five meetings between the two sides in competitive matches and the Fennecs have a slight edge of three wins compared to Scorpions two and there has never been a drawn game between the two in the past. The two have never before played each other in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The Scorpions have to win by 2-0 or 3-2 and above. Other than that, any result could see them knocked out or force the game into extra time and even a possible post-match penalty shoot out to decide the winner. Because of their two goals scored in Banjul from the first leg, Algeria will still qualify even if they lose by 1-0.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the Fennecs Bosnian coach Halilhodzic said he expects a good reaction from his players on Friday. "Against Gambia, I expect a good reaction from players who I asked to forget the defeat against Mali, and get back to work. We must win this game to gain confidence," the coach told a press conference held in Algiers.
A lot has
been said by the Gambian camp from the last outing in Dar es Salaam at the
weekend but the moment of truth has definitely arrived and anything other than
securing qualification to the next round of the Nations Cup qualifiers will be
deemed as a failure by the country’s football enthusiasts who have been left
disgruntled due to the team’s poor recent result.
And we were made to know this week that the more we continue to participate in international competitive outings, the more money we receive from international affiliates as benefits for the newly arranged television rights. But those monies only come upon the end of the particular team’s participation in the qualifiers.
The team has developed an unwelcome attitude of succumbing to late goals both home and away and the same eyebrows were raised by both fans and commentators in the 1-1 draw with the Atlas Lions after that ill fated 2-1 defeat to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in February of this year. But that trend could even be traced way back to the team’s first game at the last Nation’s Cup qualifiers when they succumbed to a late goal in a 3-1 home win over Namibia in September of 2010.
renewed especially after a brilliant performance against a star-studded
Moroccan side but the latest setback against the Taifa Stars brought the team
back to square one. And now that two games have failed to yield a win for the
Scorpions, the best way to bounce back is certainly not a double header against
the Elephants of Ivory Coast, the country’s next opponents in Group C.
Gambia plays away to Ivory Coast on the 23rd of March next year before the return leg in Banjul three months later in June the 6th. What needs to be done right now is for the team to regroup for Friday’s all important return leg in the 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifier against the Desert Foxes.
Captain Mustapha Toubabo Jarju in an interview with the media in Dar es`Salaam blamed the team’s poor travel arrangements for that defeat. The RAEC Mons midfielder cum forward said they are disappointed with the outcome of the match especially after leading for much part of the game. He also said going through five countries for the game definitely took its toll on the team. But there will be no such excuse today as the team arrived four days before the match, a day that the home side also returned from a similar trip to Burkina Faso.
"We are disappointed, we were leading 1-0 in the first half then we conceded very bad goals, Tanzania played better football than us. If you can imagine how we travelled, we flew to Senegal then to Burkina Faso then Kenya, then here (Tanzania), we arrived here on Friday and it was difficult for all players to recover and play this difficult game. What can we do? We have to do our best."
coach Luciano Mancini remained optimistic that his side can bounce back from
that defeat in this game. He said in quotes reported by Cafonlie: “The Tanzanian
team played very well…they have players small in physical stature and able to
play some fast combinations while moving swiftly with the ball.”
But while Mancini decided to be diplomatic and accept defeat in good faith, one of his assistants in Lamin LS Sambou decided to take another line of thought by strongly contesting the decision by the match referee to award the Taifa Stars a penalty.
Jaiteh again absent from the team, Mancini is expected to stick to the team
that lost to the Taifa Stars with Momodou Ceesay to be partnered upfront by Pa
Modou Jagne while Saihou Gassama and Demba Savage will assist them from the
The midfield will consist of Yankuba Maal Ceesay and Captain Mustapha Toubabo Jarju while the back four will consist of Mamadou Futty Danso, Abdou Jammeh, Pa Saikou Kujabi and Ousman Colley with Christopher Allen again to be in goal in the absence of Pa Dembo Touray.
Author: Baboucarr Camara