Congo Brazzaville raises eyebrows after compelling victory over champions
Group B -Rubavu
Congo 3-0 Gambia (Umuganda Stadium)
Ivory Coast 2-1 Mali (Umuganda Stadium)
Congo vs Ivory Coast -12.30hrs (SS9)
Gambia vs Mali -15.30hrs (SS9)
RUBAVU-Gambia’s coach Lamim Sanbou was forced to eat his words after yesterday’s crashing 3-0 defeat against one of Group B’s less fancied sides Congo Brazzaville at the newly refurbished Umuganda stadium in Rubavu.
In the build –up to the event, Sanbou was very vocal and on several occasions predicted a smooth sailing for his Baby Scorpions in the two-week tournament but to his dismay, Congo Brazzaville did their homework well.
With two U-17 Nations Cup titles under their belt, Gambia marched into the game as overwhelming favorites but were soon made to look ordinary after conceding two goals in the opening ten minutes of play.
Striker Binguila Samarange, who was voted man of the match, opened the scoring on the 4th minute after outwitting two defenders.
Five minutes later, Stevy Epako doubled the lead after a well-taken free-kick at the edge of penalty area.
Samarangue then sealed the comprehensive victory with a pile-driver to leave the title holders with a mountain to climb in their subsequent group matches.
Sanbou blamed the high altitude for the dismal performance.
“It was very hot out there and my boys struggled to come to terms with the conditions. We did not expect such conditions,” he said in a post-match press conference.
“We had a two-week training camp in Egypt and conditions were very cold so players found it hard to adjust.”
Rwandan referee Munyemana Hudu handled the match and was assisted by his fellow compatriot Felicien Kabanda (Rwanda) and Burundi’s Jean Claude Birumushahu.
In the other Group B match, Ivory Coast came from a goal down to beat fellow West Africans Mali 2-1.
Ikoro Keita put Mali in the lead in the 24th minute but second half goals from Drissa Diarrassouba and Stephen Guy Bedi sealed the win for the Ivorians.
Gambia must now beat Mali on Wednesday to brighten their chances of reaching the last four.
Meanwhile, Congo can also seal their semi-final slot if they beat Ivory Coast on the same day.
Congo and Ivory Coast have three points but Congo tops the group on goal difference. Mali and Gambia have 0 points.
The tournament continues tomorrow with two Group A games.
Egypt takes on Rwanda while Burkina Faso plays Senegal.