- Friday, 01 June 2012
- Written by Modou Lamin Beyai
The Atlas Lions of Morocco will look to put a disappointing showing at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations behind them when they begin their quest to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with an away match against the Scorpions of The Gambia on Saturday.
The North Africans are currently in Gambia for their Group C opener determined to forget an AFCON campaign in which they were eliminated in the group phase after narrow defeats to regional rivals Tunisia and co-hosts Gabon.
The Atlas Lions last played at the World Cup finals in 1998 and have appeared at the showpiece event four times overall while Gambia have never made it to the showpiece.
The problem for Gambia is that they find themselves in a difficult group in which West African heavyweights Cote d’Ivoire are the clear favourites. This means the Scorpions cannot afford to drop points in their four matches against the Morocco and Tanzania, starting with this weekend’s clash.
The Scorpions will be no pushovers, certainly not on their home turf at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. They ended six points adrift of Burkina Faso in qualifying for the 2012 AFCON but did at least remain unbeaten at home, with a 3-1 win over Namibia and a 1-1 draw against the Stallions, who needed a late equaliser from Moumouni Dagano.
The Gambia have never qualified for either the AFCON or the World Cup and 2014 is unlikely to be the tournament in which they’ll break that duck. However, they could play a spoiling role for either Morocco or Cote d’Ivoire in this group.
The match will mark head coach Luciano Mancini’s reign as head coach following his elevation and appointment as national team coach. Mancini will begin a quest to qualify the country for the next World Cup and African championships.
Several players have decided to pull out of the squad due to one reason or the other. Goal-keeper Pa Dembo Touray, who plies his trade in South Africa for Engen Santos has asked to be excused from this game as he wants to give chance to the younger keepers. Omar Jawo, Sanna Nayassi, Kebba Ceesay and Ebrima Sohna will all miss this game due to club engagements.
Sainey Nyassi, Aziz Corr Nyang, Ousman Jallow and Abdourahman Dampha have all pulled out from the squad due to injuries they suffered; they all will be missing the tie also.
Meanwhile, Pa Saikou Kujabi, who joined Scottish premier league side Hibernian, is recalled to the squad after a long absence and is in camp. Alieu Darboe, NK Triglav Kranj’s Ousman Koli and JK Nõmme Kalju’s Yankuba “Mal” Ceesay were also spotted in camp.
The list consists of eight home-based players who are selected from the GFA First Division League. The majority of the Scorpions squad ply their football in Europe but at present they lack the experience and tactical nous that Morocco will bring to the game. It promises to be an intriguing clash of styles as the road to Brazil ’14 begins.
Below is the name of the players spotted in camp:
Christopher Allen (Gambia Ports Authority)
Musa Camara (Gamtel)
Baboucarr Sanyang (Brikama United)
Alagie Jobe (Real de Banjul)
Saloum Faal (Gambia Ports Authority)
Lamin “Basmen” Samateh (NK Lokomotiva)
Mamadou “Futty” Danso (Portland Timbers)
Abdou “Tea-Boy” Jammeh (Kazma SC)
Hamza Barry (Gambia Ports Authority)
Sulayman Marr (Samger)
Yankuba “Mal” Ceesay (JK Nõmme Kalju)
Pa Modou Jagne (FC St Gallen)
Mustapha “Toubabo” Jarju (RAEC Mons)
Alieu Darboe (Wigan)
Pa Saikou Kujabi (Hibernian)
Saihou Gassama (Real Zaragoza)
Ali Sowe (Gamtel),
Tijan Jaiteh (Sandefjord)
Demba Savage (HJK Helsinki)
Momodou Ceesay (MŠK Žilina)
Cherno Samba (FK Tønsberg)