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Preview: Gambia attempt to continue fairytale run against hosts Cameroon

The anticipation for the quarterfinal matchup between hosts Cameroon and Gambia at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is at the highest possible level as the teams get set to clash in Douala on Saturday. Anything less than a victory will be unacceptable to supporters of the Indomitable Lions, who head into the match on the tail of a 2-1 Round of 16 victory over Comoros. Gambia’s status as underdogs remains but the Scorpions are determined to keep their dream run alive by taking down the hosts.

Cameroon manager Toni Conceição has been quite open about how he instructs his team to play, and the Portuguese gaffer indicated his team will look to take the match to Gambia with urgency. The team’s performance against a severely underhanded Comoros side was underwhelming and Conceição admitted that his tactics are guided by the fact that his team is stronger in the attack than on defense. Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar will lead the Cameroonian attack as captain Aboubakar attempts to be the first ever player to score in his team’s first five matches at the competition.

An issue may be the pitch at the Japoma Stadium, which has drawn much criticism throughout the competition, but Conceição downplayed any potential worries. Defender Jean-Charles Castelletto mentioned the frenzied crowd that greeted the team in Douala and stated that the atmosphere is inspiring the team to put on a good performance. Indomitable Lions supporters will hope that goalkeeper André Onana can continue his improvement in form following the excellent saves of the future Inter Milan shot stopper against Comoros.

Gambia knew they were capable of greatness on Africa’s biggest footballing stage, but now the footballing world is fully aware of the Scorpions’ ability. Having qualified all the way from the preliminary stage due to their low FIFA ranking, the resilience of the team and skill of attackers like Musa Barrow and Ablie Jallow indicate The Gambia is here to stay in African football. Goalkeeping hero Baboucarr Gaye put the perspective of the team well by commenting that having the home crowd against the team will be a motivating factor.

Manager Tom Saintfiet made it clear what he expects from Cameroon, stating that he has already told his team to expect “thirty minutes of hell” from the opening whistle. If his team can avoid conceding in the opening stages of the match, Saintfiet believes the team has plenty of playmaking ability to find the net. The tournament to this point illustrated how Gambia does not need much of the ball to be a threat, so the Scorpions will continue to absorb pressure and break out on the counter once they can establish a firm defensive base.

Key Matchup: Martin Hongla (CMR) vs. Musa Barrow (GAM)

Gambian playmaker Barrow starts out on the left wing but will have plenty of license to roam around and make an impact either wide or centrally. Cameroon’s central midfield pairing of Martin Hongla and André Zambo Anguissa will be charged with preventing Barrow and right winger Ablie Jallow from having space when they cut inside, making their roles crucial due to Cameroon’s attack-minded setup.

Prediction: Cameroon 2-1 Gambia

Further Reading

Gambia v Cameroon: An unprecedented quarterfinal (CAF Online)
Match Facts – Gambia v Cameroon (CAF Online)
Ambiance folle autour des Lions Indomptables à Douala (Camfoot)


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