7 September 2013

Tanzania/Gambia: Stars Go for a 'Kill' in Gambia

Banjul — NATIONAL soccer team Taifa Stars arrived safely in Banjul, Gambia on Thursday night with head coach Kim Poulsen reaffirming the team's commitment to grab maximum points against the host in the final Group C match of 2014 World Cup qualifier on Saturday.

The two sides face off at Banjul's Independence Stadium with both of them out of contention for a place in the next and final round of qualifiers.

Defeat for either of them might mean negotiating through a dangerous double legged preliminary in order to participate in the qualification proper for the next African Cup of Nations in Morocco 2015.

Speaking at a pre-match press conference held at the team's base at the Seaview Hotel, coach Poulsen vowed to guide his charges to victory today, describing the match as a fully fledged war. The match will kick off at 4:30pm Gambian time, which is 7: 30pm East African time.

The Dane said he is taking the game seriously with the same gravity as that of the previous five matches in the qualifiers. Taifa Stars currently sit third in Group C with six points after home wins over The Gambia and Morocco.

The Elephants of Ivory Coast have an unassailable lead at the top, which automatically qualified them for the third and final round of the African qualifiers ahead of the September 16th draw in Cairo.

But second place is still available for grabs with Morocco ahead of Tanzania by two points and Poulsen said he wants to win against the Scorpions in order to finish as first runners up to boost their FIFA rankings and avoid the gruesome AFCON 2015 post-qualifying preliminaries.

"We want to avoid the daunting task of having to negotiate through a double legged preliminary round playoff in order to participate in the Morocco 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifiers," Poulsen said in apparent reference to the qualifying format for the next edition of AFCON qualifiers.

The Taifa Stars are sponsored by the Tanzania Breweries Limited through its Kilimanjaro Lager brand and because of their heavy financial muscles, they have been in camp for nearly two weeks now ahead of a game many thought would be a mere formality.

And speaking further, Poulsen said he is looking forward to playing under difficult conditions in Banjul amid several injury casualties.

"We will play under very difficult conditions because most of the first eleven players are injured. I've never faced such a situation since I have started coaching Taifa Stars but we are geared at faring well in Banjul," the Danish coach added.

The Stars have given a late recall to veteran Simba midfielder Henry Joseph but will be without the services of injured defenders Shomari Kapombe, Kelvin Yondani and Aggrey Morris; midfielders Salum Abubakar and Athuman Idd 'Chuji' and striker John Bocco.

They will also be without their only two foreign- based players in Mbwana Samata and Thomas Ulimwengu who were both reported by their DR Congo team, TP Mazembe to be sick. Poulsen have also given a late call up to another Simba midfielder, Jonas Mkude, as a replacement for 'Chuji', who has been left out due to a knee injury.

Mkude, who played an inspirational role for Simba's impressive start to the new season, scored two goals for his club in their opening match against Rhino Rangers of Tabora. He also netted an important goal for his team against Uganda's Sports Club Villa last time out.

Another late call up was Azam FC's central defender, David Mwantika who replaced the injured Yondani. The Danish technician though failed to fill the void left by the withdrawal of Kapombe and Bocco.

The eighteen-man Taifa Stars squad to play in Banjul is; Juma Kaseja, Mwadini Ali, Ali Mustafa, Amri Kiemba, David Lahunde, David Mwantika, Erasto Nyoni, Frank Domayo, Haruni Chanogo, Henry Joseph, Jonas Mkude, Juma Liuzio, Khamis Mcha, Mrisho Ngassa, Nadir Haroud, Said Dilunga, Simon Musuva and Vincent Barnabas.

Taifa Stars Team Manager, Leopold 'Taso' Mukebezi said the team is ell prepared and they are confident to snatch victory from the match.

"Yes! We'll be without nine key players but we've good replacements and we're confident the available players will give us best results," he said.

Meanwhile, Gambia's Scorpions head coach and players have also reaffirmed their determination to secure all three points against the Taifa Stars.

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