Liberia’s fate against Guinea Bissau
HANGS IN THE BALANCE AS
Coach Debbah concedes he knows nothing about today’s opponents
BY: Danesius Marteh
Liberia will today take on Guinea Bissau in a first leg 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) at 16:00GMT (4:00PM local time) with head coach James Salinsa Debbah promising to attack.
Debbah told a pre-match news conference on Wednesday that he will stick with the first 11 players who played against Tunisia in a 1-0 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the ATS on September 5.
It means Spain-based William Jebor of Ponferradina will partner Malaysia-based Francis Doe of NX Matrix in attack while Anthony Snothi Laffor of Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, Zah Kranger of Felda United in Malaysia, Sam Johnson of Djurgarden in Sweden and Patrick Gerhardt of Sarawak in Malaysia will feature in a diamond midfield.
Teah Dennis of Al Ahly Sports Club in Jordan will wear the captain’s armband in central defense and will be partnered by Kenya-based Dirkir Glay of Gor Mahia while Solomon Grimes of Nea Salamis in Cyprus and Gizzie Dorbor of Hapoel Afula in Israel will play at right and left backs respectively.
LPRC Oilers goalkeeper Saylee Swen maintains his place as Debbah searches for a competitor following a mysterious eye injury suffered by Barrack Young Controllers’ Nathaniel Sherman, which has made him partially blind and ruled him out of football.
Malaysia-based Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh of PKNS FC is injured and returning Sweden-based Dioh Williams of Gefle IF, who beat Namibia 1-0 in a 2013 Afcon qualifier at the ATS on February 29, 2012, will watch from the substitutes’ bench.
Debbah believes his team is in a good spirit following a training ground outburst between him and Doe on one hand and Doe versus a local player on the other hand in which angry fans wanted to attack Doe on Tuesday.
“We all regret the incident. Grandpa regrets the incident. He has apologized and we’ll move on. We have accepted his apology; we are hoping, in future endeavors, it won’t happen again. But the players are in good spirit and we have gone beyond that,” said Debbah.
When Debbah unveiled his 26-man squad on October 1, he admitted that he has neither seen a video nor read any literature about his opponents and again appeared truthful on Wednesday.
“In football, there is no such thing as walkover. We are not afraid of anybody. In the same token, we have respect and admiration for them. I have seen couple of videos [about them and that’s all],” said Debbah in response to a question from Francis Pelenah of Lib24 about his opponents’ state of play and caliber of players.
Portuguese coach Paulo Torres will be in the dugout despite a four-match ban imposed by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for "offensive language and insults toward the referee" in Zambia four months ago.
Torres has selected a 21-man squad from mostly the Segunda Liga in Portugal.
Guinea-Bissau entered their first World Cup qualification with the aim of reaching the 1998 finals in France and were paired with Guinea in a two-legged match.
They went into the break 2-0 after strikes from Tavares Pereira in 11th and 36th minutes but Titi Camara, then of Racing Club du Lens in France, equalized with a brace in the 53rd and 54th minutes.
Co Cipriano won the game for the home side with a 60th-minute penalty at the Estadio 24 de Setembro in Bissau on June 1, 1996 with an attendance of 15,000.
In the return leg, Momo Soumah of Guinea scored to equalize the aggregate at half-time before Cipriano scored for the visitors to put his side 4-3 up.
However, Soumah equalized the aggregate and Tibou Bangoura won the match with his goal that made it 5-4 on aggregate at the Stade du 28 Septembre on June 16, 1996 in Conakry.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, South Sudan's first appearance in a World Cup qualifying match was short-lived because of heavy rain after only 10 minutes.
Their first-leg qualifier at home to Mauritania was suspended with the score at 1-1 and then abandoned when there was no easing of the extreme weather conditions.
Despite the short of amount of time played, South Sudan still managed to mark their historic appearance by scoring their first World Cup goal - the honour going to Dominic Abui Pretino, who struck on five minutes to cancel out Boubacar Bagili's third-minute opener.
Fifa has said the match will resume on Thursday at 11:00 local time from the point where the match was stopped.
They are scheduled to meet for the second leg in Nouakchott on 13 October.
South Sudan joined international football in 2012, a year after the country became independent from Sudan, and in September they achieved their first competitive win – beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in a 2017 Afcon qualifier.
Comoros won their first point by playing out a stalemate with Lesotho in the first leg of their tie.
The 0-0 draw ended a run of four defeats in their previous matches since they first entered the qualification for football's biggest tournament in 2007.
Comoros had gone into the game off the back of two defeats in their opening two games in the 2017 Afcon qualifiers.
But they shut out their visitors, who had goalkeeper Kuenane sent off after 84 minutes, to make history at the Stade de Moroni and begin their campaign in a positive note.
Burundi have taken the advantage in their tie with Seychelles, earning a 1-0 away win in the first leg.
Fiston Abdul Razak scored the winner after 15 minutes and his side, who last won in the competition in 2008, will now be considered the favorites to reach the next round.
Tanzania are also in a good position after recording a 2-0 home win over Malawi.
The hosts struck twice in the space of four first-half minutes, Mbwana Samata breaking the deadlock on 18 minutes and Thomas Ulimwengu doubling their advantage.
The victory continues Tanzania's improved form of this year since former national team star Charles Boniface Mkwasa replaced Mart Nooij from the Netherlands as coach.
Kenya proved too strong for Mauritius in Belle Vue, racing into a commanding lead against their hosts and then seeing off a fightback to win 5-2.
The Harambee Stars opened the scoring on 18 minutes when Johanna Omolo struck his first of the match and further efforts by Ajub Masika and Shakava put them 3-0 up with less than an hour played.
Mauritius responded well, however, and clawed two goals back through Sophie, who converted from the penalty spot, and captain Jonathan Bru.
But any hopes they had of salvaging a point were ended when Omolo hit his second goal of the game with eight minutes left and Michael Olunga completed the scoring to put Kenya firmly in control of the tie.
Only five African nations will make it to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, after going through two knockout rounds and a group stage.
Liberia: 1-Saylee Swen, 8-Solomon Grimes, 4-Gizzie Dorbor, 3-Teah Dennis (captain), 5-Dirkir Glay, 18-Anthony Laffor, 11-Zah Krangar, 6-Patrick Gerhardt, 17-Sam Johnson, 15-Francis Grandpa Doe and 9-William Jerbo.
Substitutes: Sekou Conneh, Adolphus Marshall, Oscar Dorley, Trokon Zeon, Tommy Song’o, Sampson Giddings, Dioh Williams, Raymond Fanciah, Marcus Macaulay, Abel Gebor and Hilton Varney.
Bissau: 1-Jonas Asvedo Mendes, 6-Mendes Umpeca Eridson, 3-Samba Cande, 4-Nunes C. Silva Edson Ricardo, 22-Cande Mamadu, 7-Jose Luis Mendes Lopes, 10-Ca Bocundji, captain; 5-Ibraima Cassama, 13-Sami Leocisio, 11-Malado Bald Amido and 17-Soares Cassama Ivanildo.
Substitutes: 12-Germano Mendes, 16-Emilio Da Silva, 21-Arnauld Mendes, 8-Ibraima So, 9-Sanches Semedo Cicero Casmiro, 19-Bazile Carvalho and 18-Ansumane Faty Junior.