Johannesburg - International football returns to Liberia
this weekend when they host Guinea in a 2016 African Nations Championship
(CHAN) qualifier after the lifting of an Ebola-induced ban.
The 13-month suspension was scrapped in May by African
football governing body CAF and Guinea will be the first foreign side to play
in Monrovia since that decision.
Liberia defeated Lesotho at home in May last year in a 2015
Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
But as the epidemic spread -- leading to a World Health
Organization-estimated death toll of 11,207 -- Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea
were prevented from hosting international football.
The bans on Sierra Leone and Guinea remain and after being
declared Ebola-free two months ago, Liberia suffered a setback this week with a
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While the ban was in force, Liberian national teams and
clubs staged matches at neutral venues or forfeited home advantage.
Coach James Debbah will appreciate playing at home as his
team must overcome a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the competition for home-based
Liberian media blamed the Guinea defeat on eight players
being kicked out of the squad for allegedly sneaking out of a training camp.
The suspensions reportedly deflated morale and finding
replacements delayed the departure of the team from Monrovia, forcing the first
leg in Bamako to be postponed 24 hours.
Amadou Camara bagged a first-half brace for Guinea and after
Allison Dweh halved the deficit, Ibrahim Sory Sankhon restored the two-goal
Liberia are traditionally poor at overtaking arrears and
their best chance of survival may be to win 2-0 and squeeze through on the
Zimbabwe take a 2-0 lead and a 100 percent away record of
six victories in three previous qualifying competitions to the Comoros.
However, the island nation will draw hope from restricting
the hot favourites to a one-goal advantage in Harare until Tatenda Mudewe
scored a minute from time.
Midfielders Ronald Chitiyo and Wisdom Mutasa and strikers
Thomas Chideu and Evans Rusike miss the return match after being invited for
trials outside the country.
"It will be challenging working with new players,"
admitted coach Callisto Pasuwa, "because developing combinations takes
"We dare not underrate the Comoros, who boast
well-built footballers and are dangerous from set pieces."
Namibia have vowed to attack 2009 CHAN bronze medalists
Zambia in Lusaka rather than defend a 2-1 first-leg advantage.
"We must go at them," stressed Namibia coach and
former goalkeeper Ronnie Kanalelo. "I believe our speed and tactical
discipline can bring success."
Kenya have to wipe out a 2-0 away loss to Ethiopia if they
are to remain in contention for a place at the 2016 tournament being hosted by
fellow east Africans Rwanda.
The Kenyans' task under Scottish coach Bobby Williamson
would have been easier had Kevin Kimani not had a late penalty saved by Tarik
Uganda and Burundi appear set to advance in the other east
African ties having built leads away to Tanzania and Djibouti respectively.For
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