MONROVIA, Montserrado – The senior national football team of Liberia will play their second qualifying game for the 2019 African Cup of Nations today, Sunday, September 9 when they take on the Leopards of D.R. Congo.
The match will be the second game under the newly appointed coach, Thomas Kojo. It’s a must win for Lone Star if Liberia wants to keep alive the hope of qualifying for the Nations Cup in Cameroon.
Lone Star lost 3-0 in their first group game to Zimbabwe and will need the maximum three points at home to get themselves back in the race. Coach Kojo had the local lads in training for several weeks before the arrival of the foreign-based players earlier last week.
All of the 11 foreign-based players expected for the encounter arrived to give Kojo more options in his selection of players. The foreign contingent played a test match against first division team Watanga on Thursday, September 6 at the George Weah Technical Center in Careysburg. Kojo’s boys grabbed an easy 8-0 win with William Jebor, Anthony Laffor, Sam Johnson, and the new Lone Star member Joel Johnson registering their names on the scoresheet.
The team’s performance against Watanga has boosted Kojo’s confidence. He told the media in a pre-match press conference that his team is ready for the task, noting that he’s not being carried away about what is being said about D.R. Congo in the media as he feels his opponents aren’t as special as they have been taken.
“They are an experienced team and [are] having the edge. We are always known as the underdogs. However, football is not being played on the papers. Football is what is displayed on the pitch during the period of a match. We are coming to the game strong and prepared,” Kojo said.
D.R. Congo is currently ranked 37th in the world by FIFA. They are going into the match as the better side, compared to the 158th ranked Liberia.
Meanwhile, Liberian fans will not see Spanish-based goalkeeper Boison Wynney play his first competitive game at home. Kojo had named Wynney to the roster for the crucial encounter, but the Mallorca B goalkeeper won’t be available for the match because of injury.
Wynney, who made his competitive debut for Lone Star in the 3-0 defeat to Zimbabwe in Harare, is expected to be replaced by LISCR FC’s goalkeeper Tommy Songo. Songo is expected to start in goal with another LISCR FC goalkeeper, Ashley Williams, serving as backup.
Charlotte Independence’s defender Joel Johnson will play at the right-back position while Gudja United Player of the Year Adolphus Marshall will defend on the left. The center defense will be controlled by BYC FC’s Teah Dennis and LISCR FC’s Kemoh Kamara.
Slovan Liberec midfielder Murphy Oscar Dorley will play in the midfield, along with the 2018 West African Football Union’s U-20 Most Valuable player Allen Njie.
Meanwhile, Mamelodi Sundowns attacker Anthony Laffor and Denizlispor’s forward Tonia Tisdell will play left and right midfield, respectively.
Upfront, Wydad Casablanca’s striker William Jebor, the highest goal scorer on the national team among the current generation, will partner with Sam Johnson, the top 2018 goal scorer for the Norwegian side, Valerenga.
There will be no place on the starting 11 for Spartak Moscow’s attacker, Sylvanus Nimely, and the 2018 Malaysian Premier League second highest goal scorer, Kpah Sherman. The duo was placed on the substitute bench with LISCR FC’s defensive midfielder, Saah Nyumah; BYC FC’s defender, Jeremy Sengbe; LPRC Oilers’ center back, Alvin Marconell; LISCR FC’s goalkeeper, Ashley Williams; and Seku Conneh, who plays for the South Korean second-tier team Ansan Greeners.
Unlike Liberia that lost their opening match of the qualifiers, D.R. Congo began on a winning note with a 3-1 win over the Republic of Congo. The Leopards landed in Liberia without one of the most influential players, Yannick Boalasie, who plays for English Championship side Aston Villa on loan from English Premiership club Everton FC.
However, Bolasie’s absence seemed not to worry D.R. Congo’s head coach Jean-Florent Ibenge, who said his team has come in full strength. He said his team has many options and Boalasie’s absence won’t break them down tactically.
The match today will be the fourth meeting between both countries. Liberia has won two and lost one of the three games played.
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley Jr.