Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea battle for knockout stage qualification
Qualification for the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations will be on the line when Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea do battle at the Limbe Stadium on Thursday, January 20.
Kick-off is at 6pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)
The Leone Stars are third in Group E after picking up two points from their opening two matches at the 33rd edition of the biennial tournament.
John Keister’s side held defending champions Algeria to a goalless draw in Douala on January 11 before snatching a late equaliser to earn a 2-2 stalemate against Ivory Coast at the Japoma Stadium five days later.
They could still advance to the round of 16, but would need to get another result against their West African rivals in Limbe.
Keister expressed his surprise at the situation his team find themselves in, but insists they are not done yet with an eye on reaching the next round for the first time in the country’s history.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me that we would have two points against these great teams of Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire,” the England-born tactician said in his post-match interview on Sunday.
“Now we have managed to do it, we must continue to work to succeed in our participation in this competition, 25 years later, it is not a question of changing our objective along the way.
“Above all we have a great match to deliver against Equatorial Guinea, after that we will advise, the work must continue especially at the level of the defensive organization, we have conceded far too many chances this evening unlike our match against Algeria.”
The National Thunder occupy second place, having collected three points from their first two group encounters at the showpiece event in Cameroon.
Juan Obiang’s men began their AFCON campaign with a 1-0 defeat to the Elephants on January 12 and then claimed the scalp of the Fennec Foxes three days later when Esteban Obiang’s 70th-minute goal secured a 1-0 win.
They trail the Ivorians by a single point and could still finish as group winners with victory over Sierra Leone.
Obiang is looking to build on their shock victory against the title favourites and has set his sights on going beyond the group stages once more after finishing fourth in 2015 and reaching the quarter-finals in 2012.
“I am delighted with this victory against a great and beautiful team from Algeria, it was not an easy match but we managed to build our victory,” the 46-year-old said in his post-match interview.
“The qualification for the next round is not yet acquired and tomorrow we will project ourselves on the match against Sierra Leone. The objective is to get a very good result.”
The two nations have met four times before, with the Leone Stars boasting a record of two victories to one, having most recently triumphed 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier in September 2013.