* Mali battle with Guinea again
Action resumes on Wednesday at the total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 with the semi-final matches holding simultaneously in Libreville and Port Gentil in what should interesting fixtures amongst the four gladiators from the West African sub-region.
In the other all West-African tie at Stade de Port Gentil, two-time champions, Black Starlets of Ghana would face stiff challenge from Le Mena Cadets of Niger in a tricky tie following results between both sides in friendlies ahead of Gabon 2017.
“We respect our opponents. (Niger); but Our chance of progressing to the final is very bright,” Samuel Fabian, the 58-year-old experienced Ghana U-17 trainer told CAFOnline.com
“In fact, we are happy they've qualified together with us because we played two friendlies with them as part of our preparations for this competition but a semi-final match is not the same as a friendly so we would leave no stone unturned,” he added.
The Black Starlets have scored more goals than any other team without conceding any at this tournament; yet coach Ismaila Tiemoko of Niger said he was not worried about the Ghanaian impressive statistics.
“We have made history already with qualification for the World Cup for the first time on Sunday but we are not yet satisfied; we want to go all the way and win the trophy for the first time,” stated the 52-year-old Tiemoko. “Though we lost two friendly matches against Ghana before arriving here, we are on the same level now with Ghana because we have both qualified for the semi-finals, and we are not going to play them with fear or respect.”
Elsewhere in Libreville, Le Syli Cadets would be desirous of breaking their duck against Les Aiglonnets who dispatched them 2-1 the last time in Niamey and not forgetting that 4-3 aggregate loss that denied them qualification to the 2005 edition held in the Gambia.
“Mali will fight for its honours on the pitch against Guinea on Wednesday,” hinted Komla. “We are not going to underrate them; Guinea has potential; we shave seen Guinea play and will approach this game very seriously because Guinea is a very good team.”
However, no coach at Gabon 2017 is ‘big-headed’ as Guinea’s Souleymane Camara and the 31-year-old is unabashed about staking his claim against the Malians., insisting he would come out top on Wednesday.
“If you are to make comparisons between my team and Mali, I would say we have a more technical, tactical and focused team,” Camara said without blinking eyes. “My respect to the opposing team(Mali) and knowing the mobility and technicality of their team gives me a lot to think about with maximum concentration.”
Of course, talk is cheap; the quartet after securing their slots at the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, will have to walk the talk as the race to be the continental kings gets more intense starting with Wednesday’s respective semi-finals in Port Gentil and Libreville.
GHANA VS. NIGER- STADE DE PORT GENTIL, PORT GENTIL May 24th at 15:30
2017 Friendly: Ghana 2-0 Niger
2017 Friendly: Ghana 2-0 Niger
Samuel Fabian (Head Coach, Ghana)
We both have a fair idea about ourselves because we played twice in Accra before the tournament here; so, we should expect an interesting match. We are ready to go; and we are going to be offensive from the start because we need to score goals; and we are going to attack, attack and attack so as to get early goals in other to calm nerves. Niger has a very good team and I'm not going to single out any player in the team, we are going to get ready for them and we have prepared for any kind of eventuality.
We have also trained for penalties just in case because we are now in the knockout stages. Seriously, we want to use the remaining matches of these tournament to show the world that Africa would be a force to be reckoned with at the World Cup in India.
Ismaila Tiemoko (Head Coach, Niger)
We are very proud to have qualified for the World Cup for the first time; it is historic as the first team to do so from our country and we would continue to play in order to give our people joy. We have no pressure to play against Ghana; though we lost twice to them in Accra in friendly matches; I think they are the ones who will be under pressure because they would start as favourites. The game on Wednesday will be different because we are going to use the lessons we drew from our two losses in the friendly match against them. Of course, we are satisfied that we have qualified for the World Cup but we are on course to achieve other objectives.
A child is supposed to be growing up because the government as well as the football federation worked extra hard to ensure that we come out stronger after we failed to even go beyond the group stages when we hosted the U-17 AFCON in 2015. Niger is fast growing in soccer and our winning mentality is our strong point
MATCH 14: MALI VS. GUINEA- STADE DE L’AMITIE, LIBREVILLE May 24th at 18:30
2005 U-17 Qualifiers: Mali 3-1 Guinea
2005 U-17 Qualifiers: Guinea 2-1 Mali
2015 U-17 AFCON: Mali 2-1 Guinea
Jonas Kokou Komla (Head Coach, Mali)
We will approach the game against Guinea with seriousness and concentration and try to get into the game quickly. We know that the Guinean team is a good; so, we will improve the strengths and correct our shortcomings before we get into this game.
Everyone knows that Guinea is a football country with some special player but play collectively. Also, all four teams in the semi-finals are good and deserve to be at this level. In a high-level competition, it is necessary to adapt to all the challenges. The strategy for this match is a top secret. We have already played our group matches as finals. Mali and Guinea are in the semi-finals as it was two years ago, but with different players now. We are not going to say that we won against Guinea last time but we must put all the trumps on our side to emerge victorious at the end of this meeting.
Souleymane Camara (Head Coach, Guinea)
I am happy that the entire team will head into the semi-finals without any concerns about suspensions. The 21 players selected for this tournament are all in great shape and I must credit the medical team that has done a wonderful job on any possibilities of injuries. We are here with our own objectives totally different from Mali’s. The winner of this competition will be the best representative of our great continent Africa. We know the qualities of Mali team.
They have a very strong football centre in Bamako that has produced players but that will be put behind us when we play tomorrow. I know the fans have tried to create a situation of this being the biggest match of the tournament. Fans love such moments but the stadium will be full of fans from either side. We are not haunted by the past history between the two countries when they met in the last edition of this tournament. Mali won but that is history now. That was a different generation and tomorrow we shall have another.