Liberia take on Ivory Coast today in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the ATS.
Danesius Marteh, firstname.lastname@example.org
WHO WILL WIN: YAO GERVINHO OR WILLIAM JERBO?
Monrovia- Liberia and Ivory Coast will meet for the 14th time when the sides square-off in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) on Friday.
But the statistics doesn’t read well for the hosts, who have lost 10 and drawn three of those meetings from June 30, 1965 to June 16, 1995.
On top of that, Ivory Coast have lost two, drawn six and won 14 of their 22 World Cup qualifiers in which they have qualified (2006, 2010 and 2014).
That’s an impressive records compared to Liberia, who have lost 15, drawn five and won three matches in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Liberia head coach James Salinsa Debbah can take solace in his attacking mentality, which has seen his team scored at least a goal in the six matches he has overseen in the 2016 African Nations Championship (lost 4-2 on aggregate to Guinea), 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers (2-1 defeat to Togo and 1-0 win over Tunisia) and the 2018 World Cup first round (4-2 aggregate win over Guinea Bissau).
Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh, Tonia Tisdell and Alseny Keita were recalled while Marcus Macauley and Abel Gebor were dropped.
At his pre-match news conference, Debbah made just a change to the team that started in the 3-1 win over Guinea Bissau on October 13, with Wleh preferred to Dioh Williams in attack and is leaving no stone on turns.
“Ivory Coast are supposed to be superior; that is a fallacy that I will like to debunk. We are not afraid of them. We will play our traditional four-four-two system. My players are in high spirit,” Debbah declared.
Ivory Coast head coach Michel Dussuyer’s preparations have been hampered with the withdrawal of Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony, Eric Bailly and Thomas Toure due to health reasons.
Bony was substituted with a hamstring injury after 25 minutes as Manchester City and Aston Villa drew goalless at Villa Park on November 8 in the English Premier League.
Bordeaux striker Touré picked-up an injury in a 2-0 defeat away to GFC Ajaccio in Ligue 1 in France on October 31 while Kalou suffered a violent blow to the head as he scored a hat-trick for Hertha Berlin in a 3-1 win over Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga on November 6.
Defender Eric Bailly is returning from a ‘strained and under medical supervision’ while playing for Villarreal in Spain’s Primera La Liga.
DR Congo’s TP Mazembe striker Roger Assalé, who won the Caf Champions League 4-1 on aggregate over Algeria’s USM Algers on November 8, has been recalled.
Dussuyer didn’t want to publish his list for possible defections but can still count on Yao Gervinho of AS Roma and Seydou Doumbia of CSKA Moscow,
who have been firing on all cylinders in domestic and regional competitions.
The Frenchman, who twice beat Liberia as coach of Guinea during the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, is taking nothing for granted.
“This is a team that has a new coach, James Debbah, who was appointed a few months ago. It is also a team that is on a good momentum. She beat Tunisia at home, in the context of qualifying for the CAN 2015 and she continued by eliminating Guinea-Bissau in the preliminary round of the World [Cup] 2018. So it took additional capital-confidence and has everything to gain by facing Ivory Coast,” Dussuyer told fedivoir.com.
But there is still no Yaya Toure, who says he will return to the team when the time is right.
The Manchester City midfielder, 31, hasn't represented his country since he captained them to win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in February in Equatorial Guinea.
But Yaya told BBC World Service reporter John Bennett on Wednesday’s Sport Today program that he will return eventually: "My future is there. When the time is going to come, everyone will know it."
He took over the captain's armband from striker Didier Drogba in 2014 and played in six Afcon tournaments, suffering defeat in the final in 2006 and 2012, and appeared in three World Cups.
But after 11 years on the international scene, Toure has hinted he may step aside for the new generation.
"The time for the youngsters will come soon and we need to let them go on alone," he said.
And with only two years left to run on his contract with his English Premier
League side, Toure is understood to be weighing up whether now is the time to focus solely on his club.
Arthur Boka will deputize as captain in Yaya’s absence while Teah Dennis will remain as captain.
Confirmed Liberia: Tommy Songo, Adolphus Marshall, Teah Dennis, Dirkir Glay, Patrick Gerhardt, Solomon Grimes, Patrick Wleh, William Jerbo, Zah Kranger, Sam Johnson and Anthony Laffor.
Possible Ivory Coast: Sylvain Gbohouo, Constant Djakpa, Lamine Kone, Mamadou Bagayoko, Arthur Boka, Serey Die, Ismaël Diomande, Jean Seri, Seydou Doumbia, Yao Gervinho and Giovanni Sio.