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Gambia and Senegal Vying for Qualification

Sep 24, 2008, 9:19 AM

Sticking to my 10 points projection for any team in the group to gain automatic qualification now as three teams are vying for qualification, the big question is who will meet the required magic number? Three home wins and one away point was my projected strategy.

Now the group leaders Algeria won all their three home games lost all two away but still top the group with 9 points and a draw in Liberia will give them the projected magic number needed.

The Gambia and Senegal squared in second place with 8 points each. Senegal won all its home matches, gained two valuable away points and would face the Gambia at home game.

Winning that game will see its projected target through with 11 points. On the contrary The Gambia could only manage two wins out of three at home, drawn one and banked one away point. The big question is can that draw against Senegal in Banjul be decisive for The Gambia or could we defy all the odds as Bulgaria did against France in the 1994 world Cup qualifiers?

Based on the data analytical factor, Senegal are highly favoured over The Gambia to qualify since they are moving with an average goal scoring rate of 2 goals per game whilst conceding a goal in every 180 minute they played at home.

On the other hand The Gambia look vulnerable as they concede a goal in every game played outside The Gambia with poor scoring record of one goal in every two away games.

What makes football exciting to watch is the ebb and flow of the game; end to end play; it is goals; shot at goal; spectacular saves; near misses, and goal-mouth incidents? It is players crossing the balls in full flight or taking on the opponent by skills.

Few players or spectators enjoy bouts of prolonged mid field play with static wingback as this Senegalese team exhibit as a playing pattern. The reason for this lies not in a new efficient defensive strategy so much as a misguided attacking one but the lack of talented individual players as before.

The overwhelming evidence is that Senegal is conceding bad goals and on the other hand the type of goals they are scoring now totally differs from the past; meaning technically the team is abandoning their trade mark of free flow football ( FFF) and substituting it with bouts of prolonged midfield play.

This Gambian team is completely different from the 2003 team. Senegal knows it and probably that could make the difference. The Gambia was seriously under scouted during the past, causing players although talented but end up playing for second rated clubs around the world and thus do not give them the necessary platform to develop as footballers.

When these players return to national duties and play against their counterparts, this gulf in class is usually exposed.

Now this is a story of the past. Two world cup experiences at youth level gave them the strong conviction to take on any team around the globe.

The opponent however did acknowledge this fact and would not take us lightly. I presume the only weapon to use against The Gambia in Dakar is the intimidation factor.

But let us bear in mind that we are protected by the maturity of our football authorities because of the excellent treatment accorded to Senegal during the first leg in Banjul which will serve as a yardstick.

We cannot be intimidated by " AFEERIMBOKA LAA" Let's just keep our focus and concentrate on the task in hand.

As a national team, the preparation mechanism has to be operational as at now with clear goal of creating, directing or in directing the optimum condition for the players to perform at top level.

It is only when this entire football family feels the same team spirit, can they create controllable, healthy productive working atmosphere.

There are some bottlenecks in this process that demand full attention.

1.Protecting the operational group from the hectic outside world (Agents, Journalist, friends, Fans etc.)

2. Separating the operational group from the political one.

3. Settling all the player's financial matters even before the game. Nowadays such games demand far more than just negotiating the bonuses.

4. Ensuring exclusive isolation from the host, being officials, players and fans so that team can escape to train in private as well as in the public.

However bottlenecks can also happen in football technical matters. For instance, the coaching staff must have a clear distribution of tasks. The football technical management staff must be prepared to act as "water-carriers", and tested players but within the core group there may be case of uncertainty; a key player may have injury problems, or he may have recovered but lacks match fitness. It is not so easy to choose between a 60-75% fit key player and a 100% fit worker.

Negotiations for early release of players should start in earnest because to achieve team tactical harmony between star players of different clubs, and the team tactical simulation of match reality can only be achieved in training if all players, without exception are as sharp as knives.

The living and working climate around the squad is vital. It needs a pleasant and positive ambiance during the preparatory weeks to cope with all the enormous tension and pressure.

It is important to vary full effort with relaxation, but also the coaching staff needs to set out a number of rules to guarantee unity and group discipline.

The last but not least is the work on the performance level of the team. It is an art in itself to compose the starting eleven but finding the right balance between creative players and those with destructive powers, between defence, and attack and never to forget the quality of the opposition with the specific pressure being away.

The Gambia has now what it takes to achieve the task ahead of us but with all these the coach needs a magic touch to prove the odds wrong.

France tasted the knockout punch by Bulgaria in 1994. Could Senegal be the next?