Liberia Draws Two Congos and Zimbabwe in Afcon 2019 Qualifiers


Monrovia – Liberia was drawn in Group G along with DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Zimbabwe in the draw for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, which took place in Libreville, Gabon.

Report by Danesius Marteh, [email protected]

According to the FIFA world rankings released on January 12, DR Congo are six in Africa and 49 in the world while Congo are 17 in Africa and 79 in the world.

Liberia are 28 in Africa and 101 in the world while Zimbabwe are 30 in Africa and 103 in the world.

When the draw for the 2017 Afcon qualifiers was held, Liberia was ranked below Tunisia and Togo and above Djibouti.

Despite being a contender, Liberia fumbled at the penultimate round, drawing 2-2 with Togo at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) in Monrovia on June 5, 2016 and losing 1-4 to Tunisia in Monastir on September 4, 2016.

Tunisia topped Group A with 13 points, two more than Togo and three more than Liberia respectively. Djibouti was pointless.

When he presented his CAF Champions League medal and jersey to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on January 12, former captain Anthony Snothi Laffor promised Sirleaf that Liberia will qualify for the next Afcon finals.

But Laffor and company will come-up against some old rivalries, with two in Gabon.

Old rivalries

Liberia beat Congo 5-1 in a 2002 Afcon qualifiers at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) sports complex on January 14, 2001 and won the reverse fixture 1-0 in Brazzaville on March 25, 2001.

Head Coach James Salinsa Debbah, then a player, scored in the 23rd and 60th minutes with Oliver Makor, Zizi Roberts and Prince Daye also on target.

Congo revenged those defeats in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers by winning 3-0 in Brazzaville on June 20, 2004 and 2-0 in Monrovia on June 19, 2005 respectively.

During the 1965 Afcon qualifiers, Liberia beat DR Congo (then known as Congo-Leopoldville) 2-1 in Monrovia on August 14 but lost 3-2 in the return leg on September 21.

Ivory Coast topped Group III with four points from three matches to qualify for the finals.

DR Congo (then known as Zaire) beat Liberia 2-0 at the 1996 Afcon finals at the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg on January 25.

Roger Menama Lukaku, father of Romelu Lukaku and Jordan Lukaku, opened the score with a fifth minute penalty.

In the 1998 Afcon qualifiers, Liberia drew 0-0 with Zaire in Kinshasa in a match watched by 75,000 persons on October 6, 1996 and won 2-1 in Monrovia when Zaire was renamed DR Congo on June 22, 1997 in Group 6.

Togo and DR Congo qualified with 10 and nine points while Liberia secured eight points and Tanzania had five at the end of the qualifiers respectively.

Liberia met Zimbabwe on two occasions during the 2012 Afcon qualifiers.

On September 5, 2010, Liberia was held to a 1-1 draw at the SKD but lost 3-0 in Harare on September 4, 2011.

In other 2019 pairings, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and Sao Tome or Madagascar were grouped in in Group A.

Group B consists of hosts Cameroon, Morocco, Malawi and Comoros or Mauritius.

Mali, Gabon, Burundi, Djibouti or South Sudan are in Group C while Algeria, Togo, Benin and Gambia make-up Group D.

In Group E are Nigeria, South Africa, Libya and Seychelles while Ghana, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Kenya complete Group F. 

Ivory Coast, Guinea, Central African Republic and Rwanda are in Group H and Burkina Faso, Angola, Botswana and Mauritania are in Group I.

Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, Swaziland were paired in Group J.

In Group K are Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Namibia and Cape Verde, Uganda, Tanzania and Lesotho make-up Group L.

The 12 groups’ winners will qualify alongside the three best runners-up.

Should the Indomitable Lions top the group, the second-placed side will contest the finals.

The group stage of qualifying starts in June and ends November 2018.

The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals kicked-off in Libreville as debutants and shock qualifiers Guinea-Bissau stunned hosts Gabon by pulling off a 1-1 draw in the opening match on January 14.

Juary Soares scored the equalizer for the Wild Dogs with a diving header from a free-kick in the 90th minute.

Gabon had taken the lead on 52 minutes when superstar Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned in Denis Bouanga’s cross-shot.

Home fans jeered loudly at the end, making their discontent evident.

But the draw was no more than a spirited Guinea-Bissau side deserved as they frustrated their opponents throughout and took their chance to continue what has been a fairytale run in getting to the finals.

A few predicted they would take anything from Group A but they arguably looked the more dangerous side in a game that only livened up after half-time.

Gabon was hoping to end a run of opening-match draws by hosts.

South Africa were held by Cape Verde in 2013 and Equatorial Guinea by Congo-Brazzaville two years ago Gabon played competitively only twice last year – failing to score in World Cup draws with Morocco and Mali – leaving Spanish coach Jose-Antonio Camacho in apprehensive mood.

In the second game, Burkina Faso fought back to secure a 1-1 draw with Cameroon in Group A.

Cameroon took the lead on 35 minutes when Benjamin Moukandjo superbly curled a free-kick into the left corner.

Both sides create good chances, with one of the clearest falling to Clinton N’Jie who shot wide from six yards.

The Burkinabe took full advantage when goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa could only parry a free-kick and Issoufou Dayo nodded in the leveler.

The Indomitable Lions have been depleted by the absence of eight players, including Liverpool defender Joel Matip, who rejected a call-up.

And Coach Hugo Broos will surely miss the absence of Matip and Schalke striker Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.