By Amakye Ansah
#21. Sierra Leone 🇸🇱
Nickname: Leone Stars
Last Appearance: 1996
Coach: John Keister (Sierra Leone)
Best AFCON Results: Group Stage (1994,1996)
Skipper: Umaru Bangura
Player to watch: Steven Caulker
CAF Rankings: 25
FIFA Rankings: 108
Absent for 26 years, Sierra Leone has waited for quite a long time. It is already a wonderful moment for Sierra Leonean football.
The last AFCON they participated in was South Africa in 1996 when they won their opening fixture 2-1 against Burkina Faso. They lost the next two games against Algeria and Zambia. Finished third in the group and got eliminated.
John Keister’s final squad is headlined by the surprise inclusion of formal Tottenham and QPR defender Steven Caulker. The 30-year old now plies his trade in Turkey for Gaziantep, on loan from Fernabahce. He represented England once and was part of Team Great Britain during the London Olympics games in 2012. The team has so many European based players.
The Leone Stars secured qualification with a crucial 1-0 win against Benin on matchday 6. Their best performance in almost a decade came in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers when they bounced back from a 4-0 down against Nigeria. Super Eagles scored 4 in the first 28 minutes and Sierra Leone surprisingly fought back and drew 4-4 in Benin City. It ended 0-0 in the return encounter.
Such spirited performance will be needed in Cameroon for them to have any chance of qualifying for the knockout stage. The Leone Stars will open their account with a huge game against defending champions Algeria on 11th January at Japoma Stadium in Douala, followed by games against Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea.
They have never progressed to the knockout stage of their 2 previous Africa Cup of Nations. Can they shock everyone? Can they make history?
The core of the team
East End Lions goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara is John Keister’s number 1.
Steven Caulker will add a whole lot to the team; experience, leadership, solidity and calmness at the back.
Kwame Quee is expected to provide the attack with the needed supplies. 34-year-old Mohamed Kamara is a regular for Leone Stars and his experience will be needed here.
HIFK forward Ansu Kei Kamara, Wycombe’s Sulley Kaikai and Randers forward Alhaji Kamara will be a threat to defenders in group E.
Mohamed Kamara (GK)
Osman Kakay, Umaru Bangura, Steven Caulker, Kevin Wright (DF)
Mohamed Kamara, Kwame Quee, John Bankole Kamara (MF)
Alhaji Kamara, Ansu Kei Kamara, Sulley Kaikai (ATT)
Expectations: Group Stage