DATE: Monday September 11 at 18:00 hours GMT
VENUE: Cape Coast stadium
Sierra Leone home-based squad will battle against their Nigerian counterpart this evening in Cape Coast, Ghana for a place in the group stages of the West Africa Football Union (WAFU) 2017 tournament.
The Super Eagles have been tagged favorite to progress to the group stages by football pundits but the Leone Stars cannot be totally ruled out as their determination and willingness to progress might see them edge their Nigerian counterparts.
Head coach of the home based Leone Stars, Abu Bakarr Kamara (Tostao) is optimistic of progressing to the next stage.
"I know its going to be a tough encounter but I'm confident that we will come out of the match with our heads raised up. I have faith in my boys and I'm convinced they would be able to implement the tactics we've learnt over the past few weeks," coach Tostao said.
The former Sierra Leone international skipper disclosed that the team is in high spirit and well motivated in camp as team discipline continues to rise.
"My boys are mentally disciplined and highly motivated. Winning this match is key to the revival of our local based Leone Stars and I'm sure it will also bring joy and unity back home," Tostao added.
Sierra Leone arrived in Accra, Ghana last Wednesday ahead of this crunch encounter and seemed to have settled in well while the Nigerians just breezed in late last night.
Super Eagles head coach, Salisu Yusuf is confident that the home-based Super Eagles will do well at the WAFU Cup beginning with today’s playoff game against Sierra Leone despite late arrival in Ghana.
“We may not have trained as a team before this match because of the final day of the season on Saturday, but I believe we can rely on what we have done as a team during our training camp for the CHAN qualifiers against Benin,” he said
“The spine of the squad is from the CHAN qualifiers and good enough all the players have been playing regularly for their various clubs.”
Coach Kamara will be playing a 4-3-2-1 formation with Unisa Koroma in goal and skipper Yeami Dunia leading the defense alongside; Abu Suma, Kemson Fofanah and Morie Alie.
Lahia Coker, Mamoud Fornah and Alfred Nyuma Sakila are expected to be in central midfield while Nathaniel Tongo-Vula and Nykeh O. Alpha will spread to the wings to support Donald Wellington up front.
On the other hand, Coach Yusuf will stick to his favoured 4-2-3-1 with skipper Ikechukwu Ezenwa leading a defense likely to be made of Chima Akas, Osas Okoro, Stephen Eze and Emmanuel Ariwachukwu.
Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Afeez Aremu will be the two defensive midfielders, while Destiny Ashabi will play in front of them with Friday Ubong and Peter Eneji playing as wingers and Kingsley Eduwo the top striker.
Sierra Leone will be appearing at their third WAFA Nations cup tournament. They were part of the eight teams field at the inaugural competition in Ivory coast in 2002 which was cancelled due to the outbreak of the civil war, while their second appearance was at the 2013 Finals in Ghana where they finished Bottom of their Group.
This year Sierra Leone will face Nigeria in the knockout round and look to advance into the Group stage alongside the regions heavyweights.
Listed 76 in the official FIFA's World ranking, Leone Stars locally based Side was last in action in July, when they were beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Senegal in their first round qualifying tie for the 2018 African Nations Championship.
Meanwhile, the Nigerians were part of the eight teams field at the cancelled inaugural tournament in Ivory Coast before hosting the event twice in succession in 2010 and 2011, finishing as Champions in the former and runners up in the latter.
This year, Nigeria will face Sierra Leone in the opening knockout rounds and are likely to advance to the group stage alongside the regions heavyweight.
Listed 38 in the FIFA's official world ranking, the super eagles locally based side was given a tough working over by Benin in the team's two - leg qualifying tie for the 2018 African Nations Championship, and they will be determined to prove themselves in the 2017 edition of the WAFU Nations cup.
Sierra Leone (4-3-2-1): Unisa Koroma; Abu Suma, Yeami Dunia (C), Kemson Fofanah, Morie Alie; Nathaniel -Tongo Vula, Alfred Nyuma Sakila, Lahia Coker, Mamoud Fornah; Nykeh O. Alpha, Donald Wellington
Subs: Issac Caulker, George Mata, Abu Dumbuya, Momoh Conteh, Mohamed L. Bangura, Amadu Barrie, Mohamed Sesay
Coach - Abu Bakarr Kamara (Tostao)
Nigeria (4-2-3-1): Ikechukwu Ezenwa; Chima Akas, Osas Okoro, Stephen Eze, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu; Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Afeez Aremu, Destiny Ashabi, Friday Ubong, Peter Eneji, Kingsley Eduwo
Subs: Dele Ajiboye, Adeleye Olamilekan, Daniel James, Rabiu Ali, Samuel Mathias, Gabriel Okechuku, Anthony Okpotu
Coach – Salisu Yusuf
Copyright 2014 The Sierra Leone Football Association.
Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being giving to the Communications Desk of the FA as source.