By Wleh Bedell
Liberia and Togo find themselves in a must win situation in what should be an intriguing fixture in the Gabon 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualifier on Sunday, June 5, 2016. With the Lone Stars in the pole position in Group one with 9 points from four games while their Sunday’s opponents having 2 points less from the same number of games, this fixture is certainly expected to be intriguing.
Tunisia is expected to wrap up the maximum three points against traditional whipping boys Djibouti, the win will take them to ten points, both Liberia and Togo will no doubt be itching to win this epic fixture. The Togolese won at home 2-1, after William Jebor’s brave strike was cancelled, as the Emmanuel Adebayor inspired Togo to a late to win, on June 14, 2005.
Both sides have since met 16 times with Togo winning nine, Liberia four and three ending in a draw which is an indication that Togo has the edge based on the stats. Besides, they have never been beaten in Liberia in 20 years. The Togolese have scored against their Liberian counterparts 21 times with Liberia netting ten times against them. Already, football journalists have begun labeling the match as a “William Jebor, Vs. Emmanuel Adebayor battle”, while others have said it is “James Debbah vs Claude Le Roy”.
Whatever the case, it is expected to be a tested battle, And how the individual battles will fare is what is being talked bout here. Togo who play a variety of formations; 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-3-3 to Liberia’s traditional 4-4-2 formation in the clash. Liberia’s 4-4-2 to Togo’s 4-4-1-1 should expected to be a very tough midfield battle. Please note that these are just probable line-ups:
Solomon Grimes vs Floyd Ayite
The 28 year old diminutive Liberian full back has won 17 caps and plies his trade with Cypriot elite club, Nea Salamis. Grimes could face the 27 year old, 19 capped, three goals scored, French Club Bastia winger, cum forward whose pace and trickery could be a handful. But, Solo’s intelligence and good reading of the game should be a plus. Ayite is never shy of taking the ball to the opposition and will test his marker quite well in providing width in the box. Solo should rarely venture forward from the onset and could mostly be involved in the diagonal balls supplied.
Pace and trickery vs intelligence and aggression
Gizzie Dorbor vs Lalawele Atakora
The 29 year old, 9 capped, non adventurous full back of Israeli Second tier outfit Hapoel Afula will be going against one of the fastest wingers on the continent. Gizzie hardly ventures forward, but is a fierce challenger of the ball, he would need to do with much aggression against the nimble footed 25 years old, 10 capped, 2 goals netted, Togolese winger who is with Helsinborg of Sweden. He is very quick and is noted for providing early crosses. He also provides devastating counter effect and tracks back quite well when his side is on the back foot. At 29, Gizzie does not have the strongest point of a full back and speed, as he has being playing as a holding midfielder or center back for club in the last four years, which requires less running, but good timing, interceptions, tackles and distribution. He will have to be patient against his Togolese marker, and then throw in the tackle at the appropriate time, but “Lala” as the winger is nicknamed, will never stop trying to nutmeg his Liberian opponent.
Strength vs speed.
Dirkir Glay vs Serge Gakpe
Indonesia club, Persatuan Sepak Bola’s, 24 years old, and the seven capped Liberian international will be using his rugged cum abilities, to try keep at bay the 29 years old, 30 capped, 4 goals striker, who is on loan from Italian club Genoa to another Italian club Atalanta. He is good at finishing, loves to strike from range, and Glay whose strong marking and aerial power is a gain, must be at his best against the front man. One major concern from a Glay’s perspective is his inability to make the right decision technically in passing, by evidence of the 1-0 loss to the Ivory Coast where he conceded position quite easily. – See more
Rugged Defending vs precision Striking.
Teah Dennis, Jr. vs Emmanuel Adebayor
Another major battle between the leaders—who will be starting off from where they left off in the corresponding fixture which began in Lome. Having been tested against the likes of Papis Cisse, Emmanuel Eminike, Manucho and Asamoah Gyan, the 24 years old rearguard, 20 capped international from Jordanian club employee at Al Ahli will have to keep his usual composure in dealing with the one time African footballer of the year whose potent heading power and ability to pick the pockets of the opposition will be a major factor. Adebayor, aged 32, with 66 caps and 30 goals is quite a clever player whose vast experience, and precise finishings makes him a handful on any given day. The Crystal Palace man plays deep at times, making runs in the box, and teeing up teammates. Teah must always be the first to get to the ball by deceiving the former Arsenal man with flicks, dispossession, tight markings and mostly in dealing with the flank balls and set pieces as he will always be expected to run to the near posts to contain the former African footballer.
Composure and Grit Marking vs Clever Movements and Precision Finishing
Al-Seny Keita vs Jacques Alaixys Romao
It can be described as a battle between two 32 years old players with both playing in France. The French born Romao plays at top flight side Olympique Marseille and Keita at J. A. Drancy, a club fourth division below. Both players are simple passers, can both spray passes and do play with calmness, but it is the Togolese that is a bit more aggressive and hardworking. The 52 time capped Romao can also provide the long balls by switching plays on the field, and as well as link forwards, while the 12 time capped Keita will serve as the shield in front the back four and is expected to plays from within deep.
The Battle of the 32 year old Simple Passers
Theo Weeks Lewis vs Mathieu Dossevi
The Lone Stars 26 year old, 19 capped, Cypriot Club Ermis Araddippou playmaker is expected to operate behind his strikers and will have to contend with the 28 year old ten times capped Hawk, who have scored 1 goal, French born midfielder of Belgian club Standard Leige whose long range passing and uncompromising markings should help his team. Theo will have to be more business minded this time game and eschew the show boating act in the 5-0 demolition, by taking a cue from Liberia’s recent win over Djibouti.
Defense Splitting Passes vs Strong Work Ethic
Anthony Laffor vs Abdoul Gafar Mamah
At age 31, the South African club Mamelodi Sundowns mazy runner, will be expected to run down the channels. Anthony Laffor is the highest capped player in this current generation with 28 caps, netting four goals. His never ending runs, bundle of energy which enables him to weave through opponents, tracks back and marauds forward, makes him well positioned to face the 69 capped fullback of Maldova club FC Chicinau Dacia. The 30 year old Togolese is a tough opponent, he has possesses clever markings and precision timings, which makes him a respected opponent.
Speed vs Precision and Timing
Sam Johnson vs Niasidji Kokou Donou
Strong runs, good work ethics, and descent finishings on a given day are some attributes of the Swedish club Djurgadens, 23 year old, eight times capped Lone Stars payer, The one goal forward, who have since proved to be multi functional at different positions. Johnson, have also featured in the central midfield in previous matches where he did the “donkey work”. He could face the 25 years old, eight times capped, former Enugu Rangers of Nigeria and now Togolese club Maranatha defender; he should not rest on his recent form as his opponent holds no prisoner.
Vast Speed vs No Nonsense Attribute
William Jebor vs Serge Akakpo
The braided and new path finder, trail blazer and boy-wonder who has eight out of eight, has a 100% record going into this match and is at age 24. He will have to hassle, make in-roads, fight and torment his 28 year old opponent who is capped 44 times. He is 1 goal defensive rock, who is a mainstay at Turkish club Trabzonspor. With quality service, Jebor can finish, but his marker is the man that will be instructed to keep him quiet. The Liberian forward on loan from Portuguese club Rio Ave to Spanish club Ponferradina will have to be lurking in key areas for the loose or lost balls to pounce on to put his team ahead.
Strong Will for Goal vs Lithe Marking
Francis Doe vs Djene Dakoncan
The 30 year old returnee from Malaysian club Felda is endowed with sublime skills, great movements and gifted finishings. His five goals for country could be increased and as he is expected to play off his would be partner in crime Jebor. Doe will have to use his skills to dribble, cause lots of problems, engage in the ones, twos with Jebor, and will expected to be used as a decoy to cause danger for the 28 years old Alcorcon of Spain defender who is strong in the air and is not afraid to throw in the tackle.
Mesmerizing skills cum Goal Hunting Act vs Ferocious Tackles
Shot stoppers: Agassa Kossi Vs. Tommy Songo,
It is worth noting that both goalkeepers will have to be on top of their games. Togo’s 37 year old, 56 times capped, experienced shot stopper Agassa Kossi of French club Reims who was first choice goaltender for country at the 2006 World Cup in Germany is still effective in dealing with aerial crosses, providing salute catches, quick off his line and good also at the long balls in switching his team from defense to attack in a counter attacking fashion. It is however some worry for his opponet, Tommy Songo, who at age 21 has won just five caps and is match rusty as he has been out of action as it relates to competitive football for local club LISCR due to poor form, he have had an injury for the past two months. It will be the Lone Stars’ youngster at one end, squaring off opposite the veteran Togolese goalie.
Photo: Liberia Football Association