EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: The Scorpions will face the Angolan Palancas Negras at the Independence Stadium in Bakau today at 5pm, in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification round. They will play the return leg just four days later at the Estadio 11 do Novembro in Luanda, on September 10, at 4pm local time (3pm in The Gambia).
“On the basis of the results we have achieved recently, the reference point for this group has allowed us to maintain a strong, core group of players, with a good blend of experience and youth,” Scorpions coach Tom Saintfiet said. “We are also able to bring in a couple of new players into the squad who we feel have the potential to make impact and add quality to what we already have,” Tom added.
Modou Jobe (Jeddah FC, Saudi Arabia), Alagie Nyabally (GPA FC, the Gambia), Sheikh Sibi (Virtus Verona, Italy).
Sulayman Bojang (Kongsvinger, Norway), Omar Colley (Sampdoria, Italy), Mamadou Danso (unattached), Pa Modou Jagne (unattached), Simon Richter (Brønshøj BK, Denmark), Mohammed Mbye (Mjällby, Sweden), Ibou Touray (Salford City, England), Bubacarr Sanneh (Göztepe, Turkey).
Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers, England), Ebrima Colley (Atalanta, Italy), Dawda Ngum (FC Roskilde, Denmark), Bun Sanneh (Génération Foot, Senegal), Ebrima Sohna (unattached), Sheriff Sinyan (Lillestrøm, Norway).
Musa Barrow (Atalanta, Italy), Assan Ceesay (FC Zürich, Switzerland), Lamin Jallow (Salernitana, Italy), Bubacarr Jobe (Mjällby, Sweden), Nuha Marong (Racing Santander, Spain), Yusupha Njie (Boavista, Portugal).
STRONG FOUNDATIONS BUILT
The squad featured 16 players from the previous camp held in Morocco, where the Scorpions were able to claim 1-0 wins against both Guinea and their host Morocco, as part of their respective preparations for the 2019 AFCON.
Ebrima Sohna against Guinea and Musa Barrow against Morocco, wrote their names on the score-sheet whilst Modou Jobe was able to claim two clean-sheets with his last minute penalty against the Moroccans, signing-off a great camp for the Scorpions.
The Norway-based duo, Sulayman Bojang and Sheriff Sinyan retained their places in the squad having impressed whilst in Morocco, which was their first respective outings for the Scorpions.
Under the guidance of the Belgian tactician, the Scorpions have recorded 3 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat with a total of 8 goals scored and 5 conceded across 7 matches.
The squad is set to welcome the return of stellar performers in the shape of Assan Ceesay and Lamin Jallow, who missed recent games through a combination of suspension and injuries. The reliable and solid Simon Richter also made a return alongside another full-back in Ibou Touray, who is still basking in the glory of scoring a goal in Wembley Play-off final. Yusupha Njie is also expected to feature, having successfully recovered from long-term injury and will be hoping to stake his claim for a place in the impressive Scorpions forward line.
CORE GROUP OF EXPERIENCED PLAYERS
Scorpions’ fans will no doubt relish the opportunity to see Omar Colley in action, as the Serie A defender is expected to play his first match at home since March 2018. Omar is counted amongst the more experienced Scorpions in the squad alongside captain Pa Modou Jagne, Ebrima Sohna, Mamadou Futty Danso, Modou Jobe and Bubacarr Sanneh, who all form an effective leadership group in Tom Saintfiet’s dressing room.
Former U-20 midfielder Bun Sanneh has been rewarded with a place in the final squad following his consistent and impressive displays in Senegal and in Africa’s top club competition; the Total CAF Champions’ League. Bun was last called up for the Scorpions for a chance to train and learn from their senior counterparts in March 2018 with a group of other U-20 players which also included Ebrima Colley. Bun and Ebrima provide the youthful zeal as the two youngest members of the squad.
“This has been one of the hardest selections we have had to make,” Saintfiet told GRTS Talking Sports show on Monday. “When I think about the great players we have worked with and who have made a positive impression on us, it’s tough that they are not here but unfortunately we can only select 23 players.”
The Angolan squad featured players from their domestic league, the Girabola ZAP, which ranks amongst the top leagues in Africa. The squad has taken players from two of the biggest clubs, Primeiro de Agosto and Petro de Luanda, both regular participants in CAF inter-club competitions.
Bastos is the standout defender, currently playing for Lazio in Seria A. As expected, the majority of their European-based players have been plucked from Portugal, with many players with Angolan roots having been convinced to represent Angola, despite featuring for Portugal at youth level.
Angola have qualified for the World Cup previously, their only time came in 2006 where they finished third in a group containing Portugal, Mexico and Iran. After they opened with a 1-0 defeat against Portugal. They held Mexico to a goalless draw, before drawing 1-1 with Iran in their final group game.
The Palancas Negras (Giant Sable Antelopes) were amongst the teams at the just concluded 2019 AFCON where they finished third in Group E. They opened with a 1-1 draw against Tunisia with Djalma getting the equalising goal. They later finished with a 0-0 draw against Mauritania before losing their last match against Mali 0-1.
They have made a recent coaching change, having named Interim Head Coach, Pedro Gonçalves, a Portuguese national, taking over from Serbian Srdan Vasiljevic.
Gonçalves also coaches the youth national teams including U-23, U-20 and U-17, who he guided to a place at the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The U-17s finished third in the U-17 AFCON tournament, which was upgraded to silver following the disqualification of runners-up Guinea for age-cheating.
There is a place for the 17-year old Wonderkid Zito Luvumbo in the squad, who Coach Gonçalves has worked with at U-17 and U-20 level and this represents his first call-up to the senior national team. He has recently held trials at Manchester United.
During the qualifiers for the 2019 AFCON in Group I, the Angolans registered four wins over Botswana (1-0 home and away), Mauritania (4-1 at home) and Burkina Faso (2-1 at home). Their two defeats were both away games against Burkina Faso (1-3) and Mauritania (0-1).
Veteran striker and captain, Mateus, top scored for the Angolans in their last qualifying match with 4 goals. Gelson Dala, who recently completed a loan move to Turkey, registered 3 goals but is not part of this squad.
They have also qualified for 6 of the last 8 AFCONs with 8 tournament appearances in their history.
By: Ismail Sonko