The Bright Stars of South Sudan will be making history when they face former champions Congo in Group B of the TotalEnergies U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt meanwhile The Red Devils of Congo will be seeking another TotalEnergies U20 Africa Cup of Nations crown when they get their campaign underway in Ismailia.
South Sudan will be making their debut at the competition after qualifying for the first time as CECAFA runner-up but head coach Peter James says they’re not there by luck.
“Football is a hard-working game and South Sudan has worked hard and we’re not here by chance,” Peter James told journalists on Sunday.
“We’re here to present South Sudan and show the world where South Sudan football is, and we wish to go further in the tournament.”
The debutants will be hoping to cause an offset when they face the Red Devils who have won the tournament in the past.
“Tomorrow will be our first game and we have prepared well to show up and it will be good to give a good impression. The weather in South Sudan is different from Egypt and it was good we arrived early and acclimatized for the tournament,” James said.
Joseph Loro Marko Jele will have the honor of leading the Young Bright Stars out for the country’s maiden continental competition.
“I’m grateful to represent our country for the first time at the TotalEnergies U-20 AFCON, and qualifying the team for the first time is exciting for South Sudan and everyone,” Loro said with a broad smile.
“We’re here to aim for more and my vision is very high, and I want to achieve for South Sudan and my career.
“Winning tomorrow will be a great victory for the country not only football. It would mean a lot to the country, but we’re prepared for it and personally it would be something great to win our first match on our debut appearance. We are not here to participate we are here to compete.”
The former champions, Congo, who won the competition when they hosted it in 2007, open their campaign against debutants South Sudan at the Suez Canal Stadium.
Congo will be appearing at the tournament for the third time and head coach Marie Joseph Madienguela says his team is prepared to face a very good South Sudan side.
“We will face a good team but we’re very motivated as we have experience and we have improved in my opinion,’ said the experienced Marie Joseph.
“On paper we are the favorites, but the papers are not always right, but we want to start well and boost our chances in the competition.”
Captain Claude Gisaurvel Ngongara says the team is in a good environment to do well as they’re in Egypt to win.
Congo won the 2007 edition of the tournament but missed the last edition in Mauritania and are confident they can repeat the heroics.
“We are prepared to win, and we will be fine in this competition. We always have ambition and we’re here to win this and the vibe is very good. We have a good team to compete,” Claude said.
“We are sure that we will do well and have a great game.”
Bright Stars possible starting lineup –
Red Devils possible starting lineup –
Bright Stars of South Sudan vs Red Devils of Congo prediction
In the Central-Eastern Zone qualifiers, South Sudan drew with its former parent nation Sudan, then with Burundi before winning its last match against Djibouti. During the knockout stages of the qualifiers, they drew 2-2 with Ethiopia before eliminating them 4-2 in the penalty shootout. But they were no match for an ambitious Ugandan team which proved much more resilient and showed more passion despite falling behind to South Sudan in the 15th minute. Uganda equalized seven minutes after before scoring the winner in the second half. The hope for South Sudan is that they must have learnt their lesson from that defeat.
The Red Devils of Congo drew against Cameroon in Brazzaville, 1-1, beat Central African Republic 3-1, thereafter thrashing DR Congo 3-0. The form book and experience of the competition is firmly on the side of the Young Red Devils. Let’s see how they translate success from the paper to the pitch.
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