The Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet says his charges needs to be wary of the threat posed by Chad when they face each other in the preliminary qualifiers of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.
The Scorpions will be looking to make the group stage of the qualification proper after impressing at this year’s TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Tom Saintfiet’s team reached the quarter finals on their tournament debut but the Belgian believes the two matches against the Central African side will be tougher than the ones against Guinea and Tunisia at the AFCON.
“For me, these are the most difficult matches of the year; these are more difficult games than the ones we faced at AFCON,” Saintfiet told CAFOnline.
“Playing play-offs is very difficult, naturally the public will expect us to win against Chad, but people forget that Chad was also in the last qualifiers (AFCON 2021) in the same group with Guinea, Mali, and Namibia and they even drew against Guinea.
“They have professional players in Belgium, France and they’re a good team plus the biggest risk is Chad has nothing to lose and we will be the favourites and we have a lot to lose after a fantastic AFCON where we ended at sixth place.”
The West African side will be playing their home fixture in Agadir, Morocco after their stadium was banned from hosting international matches as it failed to meet the CAF standards.
“Playing in Cameroon against Chad and playing Morocco against Chad is naturally a very strange situation we played exactly 12-months ago at home against Angola when we qualified for our first AFCON and it’s a little bit strange that we can’t play right now at home,” he added.
“It would’ve been fantastic to play after our AFCON with the support of our fans knowing that our Gambian fans are looking forward to seeing their heroes, their players and to celebrate them and support them and it’s a very sad situation.”
Chad will host the first leg of the double header on 23 March in Yaoundé before while the reverse fixture takes play in Agadir on 29 March.
“It’s very tough to focus for these kinds of matches; it’s very tough to prepare yourself because there’s always a risk that the players could underestimate the opponent but naturally, we will prepare them to focus and we have the analysis of Chad ready, the former Namibia and Togo coach said.
“Chad is a good team, Chad is a respected team and it would be tough, Chad is more difficult than Djibouti and if you remember we had problems with Djibouti a few years ago then we know that our matches against Chad will be tough.”
The Belgian will have to do without star man Ablie Jallow who’s out with a knee injury alongside long term absentee Hamza Barry.
“We need to be fully focused and I hope the players can get focus after the AFCON and we miss some players like Hamza Barry who we were hoping that he would return but he got a new injury.
“Ablie Jallow who’s very important who played fantastic at the AFCON is still not recovered from the injury against Guinea, and also Ebrima Colley is doubtful so it won’t be easy plus there are some leading players who said goodbye like Ebrima Sohna and Pa Modou Jagne so we have to see how the group reacts.”
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