Dar es Salaam. National soccer team Taifa Stars are in a ‘must win’ encounter against Tunisia at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam tonight.
Currently, Taifa Stars are placed at the bottom of the Group J standings after collecting three points from three matches, while Tunisia are at the top of the standings, with nine points.
The second position is held by Equatorial Guinea, with six points, while Libya is third, with three points.
Libya beat Taifa Stars in the Group matches, whereby the latter lost their match played in Tunisia by 2-1. Taifa Stars’ head coach Etienne Ndayiragije said they will play determinedly in today’s match in order to come out with good results.
Ndayiragije said his players are in high morale, and have rectified their past mistakes and hope to excel in the return match which starts at 10pm.
“We trained hard soon after arriving back home, working on the mistakes that made us lose to Tunisia 1-0. We still have a chance to progress in the competition and leapfrog both Libya and Equatorial Guinea in the standings,” said Ndayiragije. The Burundi tactician said tonight’s match will be tough, and whoever wins it will secure a placing in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon. However, Taifa Stars will miss the services of its two strikers, team captain Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu. Samatta was injured while playing in the Turkish Premier League. However, no reason was stated for Ulimwengu’s absence. He also missed the first match in Tunis.
“We have home ground advantage this time, and we must utilize it well. The players are ready to do battle, and we should score goals on home ground. So, I call upon all soccer fans to come and watch the match - and cheer their team on,” he said.
After Tunisia, Taifa Stars will face Equatorial Guinea on March 22 next year - and finish the Groups stage encounters at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar on March 30. Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea revived their hopes of reaching the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time since hosting the continental showpiece in 2015, when they completed the double over Libya, defeating them 1-0 in Bata on a Saturday evening.
Nzalang Nacional raised their Group J tally to six points, and are in second place, three points behind leaders Tunisia who face Tanzania in Dar es Salaam today.
Libya and Tanzania follow in that order with three points each.
Ivan Edu Salvador scored what proved to be the game’s single goal, sending a scorcher that Libya’s goalkeeper Fathi Sabir could do nothing about to stop it in the 27th minute.