LITMUS TEST FOR RENARD; UPHILL TASK FOR MCKINSTRY

Herve Renard, the former Angola and Zambia coach will be hoping his first competitive game in charge of the Cote D’Ivoire ends in a morale-boosting win while the Sierra Leone coach, John Mckinstry is optimistic his boys are capable of creating an upset in Saturday’s Group D opening match in Abidjan.

Renard, who won the 2012 African Cup of Nations with Zambia before leaving for the now relegated Ligue 1 side Sochaux, was handed a two-year renewable contract by the Cote D’Ivoire FA on July 31st this year and is expected to take the team to the 2015 AFCON finals in Morocco next January.

To start his campaign, coach Renard has announced a 26-man squad for the Sierra Leone and Cameroon matches in Abidjan and Yaoundé on the 6th and 10th September respectively. With Didier Drogba already retired from national duty, his first step is to revitalize an ageing squad and in the process left behind veterans Didier Zokora and Kolo Touré and bringing on six newcomers. He is giving a first chance to defenders Ousmane Ouattara, Franck Kessié and Lamine Koné, midfielder Eric Tié Bi and forwards Roger Assalé and Gadji Tallo.

The 45-year-old is looking for his first win since taking over from Sabri Lamouchi and any complacency will cost him a debut victory at the Felix Houphouet Boingy Stadium. The Ivoirians are out looking for a place in the continent’s top competition and victory against Sierra Leone in the first leg fixtures in Group D will kick start their bid.

Sierra Leone on the other hand have been very organized in recent matches, defeating Swaziland and Seychelles to make the group stage of the competition, but are yet to secure an away victory since their 1-3 win on September 8, 2002 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Coach McKinstry was placed in interim charge of the Leone Stars in April 2013 to oversee the three remaining matches of Sierra Leone in the World Cup qualifiers after former Swedish coach, Lars Olof Mattson resigned. His three matches against Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia and Cape Verde ended with a 3-1 victory, a 2-2 draw and a 1-0 defeat respectively and though the team failed to qualify, the Irishman was deemed to have done well by both the Football Association and the Sports Ministry; which warranted another chance for him to take the team to the AFCON 2015 finals.

The 28-year old eliminated Swaziland and Seychelles but this is the most difficult task for him and he would have to come out with a respectable result to prove his critics wrong. A draw in Abidjan will raise the confidence of the Ministry and the FA to allow him continue even after this campaign but a humiliating result will raise eyebrow as most people believe this will be the test of his tactics.

Coach McKinstry believes his side will be up for the challenge as he has so far succeeded in taking them to the top 50 on the FIFA rankings, but he is aware that the group stage of the AFCON qualifiers will be a different test.

“Since taking up the reigns of the Leone Stars, both I and my coaching staff have had a clear vision of how we wanted to move the team forward. Through this new playing philosophy, combined with the introduction of new players to the group, and most importantly the work ethic of all those involved, I believe we can create an upset in this group,” coach Mckinstry said.

The Academy Manager has brought in two new players in his 20-man team for both the Ivory Coast and DR Congo encounters. Albert Kargbo, who plays for Swedish club, Friskaviljor has replaced Tranmere Rover’s Abdulai Bell-baggie, who is injured and out for three weeks while Canada based FC Edmonton defender, Mallan Roberts also got his first called up.

Regular starters, Ibrahim Tetteh Bangura and Mohamed Bangura are out injured as well as Italy based Rodney Strasser while Ibrahim Koroma and Samuel Barlay are out suspended for an alleged match fixing; but the return of teenage sensation, George Kweku Davies, Mustapha Dumbuya, Julius Woobay and Alhassan Kamara to the team will create some artistical show both in the defence and the attack.

The much talked about encounter will kick off at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium on Saturday and the Leone Stars are yet to score against the Ivoirians in all their five meetings. The Ivoirians have scored eight times in all those five matches with the highest margin being a 4-0 win in the African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia 94.

Head to Head

15 Oct 1972 Sierra Leone v Ivory Coast W 0-1 FIFA World Cup

29 Oct 1972 Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone W 2-0 FIFA World Cup

08 Jan 1984 Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone W 1-0 International

27 Mar 1994 Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone W 4-0 African Nations Cup

SQUADS

The Elephants 26-man Squad for Leone Stars and the Indomitable Lions

GOALKEEPERS: Gbohouo Sylvain (Séwé Sport/CIV), Copa Barry (Lokeren/ Belgique), Sayouba Mandé (Stabek/Norway) DEFENDERS: Serge Aurier (PSG/ France), Bamba Souleyman (Palerme/ Italy), Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro(Toulouse/ France), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt/ Germany), Ouattara Ousmane (Séwé Sport/ CIV), Brice Dja Djédjé (Marseille/ France), Franck Kessié (Stella/ CIV), Benjamin Angoua (Guingamp/ France), Lamine Koné (Lorient/ France), Arthur Boka (Malaga/ Spain) MIDFIELDERS: Bolly Mathis (Fortuna Düsseldorf/Germany), Cheick Tioté (Newcastle/England), Roger Assalé (Séwé Sport/ CIV), Yaya Touré (Manchester City/England), Max-Alain Gradel (St-Etienne/ France), Ismaël Diomandé (St- Etienne/ France), Geoffroy Serey Dié (Basel/ Switzerland), Eric Tié Bi (Asteras Tripolis/ Greece) FORWARDS: Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow/ Russia), Gadji Tallo (Bastia/ France), Gervinho (Roma/ Italy), Wilfried Bony (Swansea/ England), Salomon Kalou (Lille/ France)

The Leone Stars 20-man Squad for the Elephants and the DR Congo

GOALKEEPERS: Solomon Zombo (US Quevily, France) John Trye (ASA Charge, USA) DEFENDERS: Sheriff Suma (Syrianska, Sweden) Umaru Bangura (Dynamo Minsk, Belarus) David Simbo (Al Hilal, Sudan) Mohamed Kamanor (UEMA, Sweden) Mustapha Dumbuya (Notts County, England) Mallan Roberts (FC Edmonton, Canada) Abdul Rahman Bangura (Atlanta Silverbacks, USA) MIDFIELDERS: Mohamed Kamara (Bolton, England) Michael Lahoud (Philadelphia Union, USA) Julius Woobay (Neftchi Baku, Azerbaijan) Alfred Sankoh (Khazar Lankaran, Azerbaijan) Khalifa Jabbie (Balikesirispor, Turkey) Ibrahim Kallay (Lulea, Sweden) FORWARDS: Albert Kargbo (Friskaviljor, Sweden) Alhaji Kamara (Noorkoping, Sweden) Alhassan Kamara (Orebo, Sweden) George Davies (Germany) Kei Kamara (Middlesbrough, England)

Tags: SLFA Media Department
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