Sierra Leone’s national team, Leone Stars will start their campaign of reaching its third African Cup of Nations in the country’s history when they take on the Harambee Stars of Kenya on Saturday June 10th at the Siaka Steven Stadium in Freetown.
Since then, the team has successively failed to reach the African epic tournament and the most recent was in the 2017 qualifiers when they narrowly missed out following a 1-1 draw with the then reigning champions, Ivory Coast in Bouake finishing just a point behind the Ivorian’s.
However, the urge and determination for a place in Cameroon 2019 is said to be the key driving force for the team and assistant Coach John Sama who was also part of the squad that played in both 1994 & 1996 Nations Cup, who believes the current squad is ready and up to the task of making it to Cameroon 2019.
“The players are more determined than before to make it and their first start to Cameroon 2019 is this match. Our hopes are high and every member within the technical team and the players themselves are individually motivated to achieve our goals in this campaign,” Sama said.
The team captain, Umaru Bangura re-echoed his assistant’s sentiment adding that they want to make amends for the last camping.
He said: “This is our time especially so when we will be playing all our home matches in Freetown, as players we believe this is our time to qualify for the African Cup of Nations and we should start with a win over Kenya on Saturday.”
As a statement of intent head Coach John Keister who replaced Ghanaian Sellas Tetteh named a strong squad which included 19 foreign-based players but he will not be having the service of Partick Thistle defender Mustapha Dumbuya and D.C. United forward, Alhaji Kamara.
However, New England Revolution striker Kei Kamara could be in lineup to lead the striking force with inform BK Hacken forward, Alhassan Kamara alongside him.
The Harambee Stars whose away record in matches are underwhelming, are upbeat ahead of Saturday’s clash and the team’s vice-captain David “Calabar” Owino on their arrival in Freetown on Thursday said there is reason for optimism ahead of the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification matches.
He said: “Defence is always a key in any football match because if you don’t concede, you cannot lose, so for this campaign, we plan to keep things tighter at the back while playing at home and away. This plan doesn’t only involve the four defenders and goalkeeper but the whole team.”
Kenya’s last competitive away victory against a West African opponent, came 15 years ago against Cape Verde in Praia but since then they held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw during the 2013 World Cup Qualification. In March of 2016 they were beaten 1-0 at the Estadio Nacional 24 by Guinea Bissau.
The have also suffered defeats at the hands of Nigeria in Abuja back in 2009, plus a painful 1-0 loss to minnows Guinea Bissau last year but has secured positive outcome in wins over DR Congo, Liberia and Mozambique.
By: Sahr Morris Jr.