Monday, July 22, 2024

Derby, rivalry, revenge: The Gambia faces neighbours Senegal, Cameroon in AFCON draw

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By: Muhammed Lamin Drammeh

The first-ever Sene-Gambia derby in the Africa Cup of Nations will take place in the Ivory Coast between The Gambia and Senegal in January 2024.

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The Scorpions have been drawn into a challenging group for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations tournament. They will be facing off against their close neighbours and reigning African champions, Senegal, as well as the five-time champions, Cameroon, and Guinea. Guinea will be looking for revenge after their unexpected loss to the young Gambian team in the previous competition, which was held in Cameroon.

The last time The Gambia and Senegal played an official match at a senior level was in 2008. The match ended in a draw in Senegal, and retired agile midfielder Ebrima Sohna scored a last-minute equaliser for The Gambia. This sent Gambians into a wild jubilation. Since then, the Tarenga Lions have transformed themselves into the most dangerous side in the continent. They won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and booked a place in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

On the paper, Senegal is miles ahead of The Gambia, but Tom Sainfeit and his team have been turning doubters into believers in the past three years regardless of the manner they do it.
When these sides meet, pride, supremacy, and glory are the ultimate goals of the players on the pitch.

The two countries shared almost everything in common, from culture to religion, ethnic groups to politics and economics.

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Chelsea and Senegal international, Nicolas Jackson, who was born, raised and started his football career in The Gambia, will face his country of birth. Jackson played for local team Waa Banjul in The Gambia before relocating to Senegal and eventually opted to play for them.

On the other hand, Cameroon ended The Gambia’s fairy tale AFCON debut when they triumphed over the Scorpions in the quarterfinals. Tom Sainfeit and his charges will be expected to redeem themselves and get revenge for a victory against the five times Africa Cup of Nations.

Guinea Conakry, on paper, will be the easiest side The Gambia will face in the group. The Scorpions stunned Guinea in the last competition with a one-nil win, to the chagrin of the Guineans who believed that The Gambia was too small a country to have won against them in the last 16 of the competition.

The head coach of Guinea Conakry, Kaba Diawara, after the draw said: “This is the group of death. We will be well-prepared. We will play two test games and have a solid preparation camp before AFCON, we will not underestimate Gambia or any team; we will come ready.

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“We want revenge against The Gambia, and against Senegal, it’s a derby we played them last AFCON 0-0. We know to qualify we must win our games again, we are not underestimating any team,” he said.

Tom Sainfeit, head coach of the Gambia, acknowledged group C’s uneasiness and emphasized its status as the group of death.

Although Senegal and Cameroon are the favourites to qualify from the group, The Gambia, despite being a tiny country, has the potential to surprise the whole continent once again. Tom Sainfeit, coach of The Gambia, believes that The Gambia can qualify for the next round of the competition if all his players are fit and ready to play.

Interestingly about this group, all of them played and passed the group stage in the last competition in Cameroon.

It will be The Gambia’s second consecutive appearance in the competition.

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