The Sierra Leone national team, Leone Stars is one of the 28 teams battling for a place in the final slot of the tournament and they will start their campaign against one of Africa’s top guns, The Elephants of Ivory Coast.
The Ivoirians will host their Sierra Leonean opponents in Abidjan for their first group D clash on Saturday September 6th whilst the other group D tie will involve DR Congo hosting Cameroon in Lubumbashi.
The build-up of this tie has been dominated by great uncertainty over the venue with the Ivorian authorities earlier on refusing to host the match in Abidjan due to the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.
However, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) who earlier ordered both Guinea and Sierra Leone to move their home ties to neutral venues also warned the Ivorian authorities of the penalty in forfeiting their match if they failed to show up for the match.
Despite the off-field distraction, Leone Stars coach, Johnny McKinstry believes the Ivory Coast clash will not be an easy run for his boys but however believes they can achieve their goals in qualifying for the Nations Cup.
“"At the beginning of 2014 we had two clear goals. Firstly, take Sierra Leone into the top 50 in the world, and secondly, qualify for the CAF Nations Cup to be held in Morocco in 2015. I am pleased to say we are on track, and we look forward to the challenges that are coming up over the coming months as we move to complete our mission for the year,” McKinstry said.
The upbeat Irish coach believes despite the task being difficult for them been that will be playing their home matches on neutral venues believes they can succeed.
He said: “We will adopt a new home in a different country to complete our fixtures. Whilst it is disappointing that we will not be able to play in front of our own fans, who are so passionate about their team, it is a decision that we understand and are supportive of.”
On the other hand, new Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard is seeking to succeed on his new assignment and will have to make do without the country’s football legend, Didier Drogba who recently retired from international football.
The former Zambian Coach called up 17 players from the just completed World Cup campaign in his first squad for the clash.
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek)
Defenders: Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Toulouse), Benjamin Angoua (En Avant Guingamp), Serge Aurier (Paris St Germain), Souleyman Bamba (Trabzonspor), Arthur Boka (Malaga), Brice Dja Djedje (Olympique de Marseille), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Franck Kessie (Stella Abidjan), Lamine Kone (Lorient), Ousmane Ouattara (Sewe San Pedro)
Midfielders: Roger Assale (Sewe San Pedro), Geoffroy Serey Die (FC Basle), Ismael Diomande (St Etienne), Max Gradel (St Etienne), Eric Tie Bi (Asteras Tripolis), Cheick Ismael Tiote (Newcastle United), Yaya Toure (Manchester City),
Forwards: Mathis Bolly (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Gervinho (Roma), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Junior Tallo (Bastia).
The Leone Stars full squad:
Goalkeepers: Solomon Zombo Morris (US Quevily, France), Patrick Bantamoi (Viking, Finland),
Defenders: Sheriff Suma (Syrianska, Sweden), Umaru Bangura (Dynamo Minsk, Belarus), David Simbo (Al Hilal, Sudan), Mohamed Kamanor (UMEA, Sweden), Mustapha Dumbuya (Notts Country, England), Mallan Roberts (FC Edmonton, Canada), Abdul Rahman Bangura (Atlanta Silverbacks, USA)
Midfielders: Mohamed Kamara (Bolton Wanderers, England), Michael Lahoud (Philadelphine Union, USA), Alfred Sankoh (Khazar Lankaran, Azerbaijan), Khalifa Jabbie (Balikesirspor, Turkey), Julius Wobay (Neftchi Baku, Azerbaijan), Ibrahim Kallay (Lulea, Sweden), Albert Kargbo (Friskaviljor, Sweden)
Attackers: George Davies (unattached), Alhassan Kamara ( Orebo, Sweden), Kei Kamara (unattached), Alhaji Kamara (Norrkoping, Sweden)