The Ivory Coast will play Senegal this afternoon in the first of a two legged play off, to decide which country will reach the African Cup of Nations finals to be held in South Africa starting in January.
The only other experienced striker on the books now is Shola Ameobi, who is injury prone to say the least, and had been injured all season so far with another hamstring injury.
Senegal have a new manage in Joseph Koto – who was in charge of the Senegal side during the London Olympics – and he understands the feelings at Newcastle, and he was asked what he thought of Newcastle manager’s Alan Pardew’s preference that Senegal lose:
“The ball is in the court of the players. I have selected them and they have every facility available to them to do well. It is up to them to deliver – and I know that they are professional for both Newcastle and Senegal. So there is no problem.”
“The team that is most motivated and committed should win in Abidjan and we have the means to succeed there. Ivory Coast may be favourites, but we are strong challengers with footballers who can compete against anyone.”/
The Ivory Coast went very close to winning the Cup last February, when they were beaten on penalties by Zambia after a long drawn out penalty shoot out - and their manager Sabri Lamouchi thinks it may be the last chance for great players like Didier Drogba – who may be the best Ivorian footballer ever.
This is what Lamouchi had to say about the game:
“This may be the last chance for this awesome generation and if the players are able to bring home the trophy it would be a tremendous gift for the entire nation,”
“My objectives are very clear – to qualify this team for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and to do better than in the previous edition, that is to say, to win the competition.”
The Ivory Coast are favorites, but we’ve learned that doesn’t mean much in African football, and there are lots of upsets in their games.
And whatever the result today, Newcastle fans will have to wait until October 12th for the return leg to be played in Dakar, before we know what our fate is.
It’s hard to believe that Newcastle didn’t bring in another striker to replace the departed Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands, but we didn’t for whatever reason.
And that puts the team at great risk if Sengal qualifies for the finals of a tournament that will take place from January 19th through February 10th.
Newcastle have five games during that period, and that doesn’t include any Europa League games we may have qualified for by then.
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