By Victor Kanayo
After crashing out of the group stage of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) following an abysmal performance, Gambia National team Coach, Tom Saintfiet has resigned.
Gambia’s ouster was inevitable after they lost their three matches at the group stage of the tournament holding in Cote d’ivoire.
The last straw in the chains of defeats was when they succumbed to Cameroon’s 3-2 bashing on Tuesday night in Group C final clash.
Saintfiet was appointed in 2018 and led the side to the quarter-finals of the 2021 edition of Afcon on their debut.
However, the Belgian could not repeat those heroics in Ivory Coast.
The Gambia were 168th in the world rankings when Saintfiet took charge in July 2018, and the 50-year-old departs after improving their position to 126th.
The Scorpions were the lowest-ranked team at the 2021 finals but beat Mauritania, Tunisia and Guinea on the way to the last eight, where they were beaten 2-0 by hosts Cameroon.
They opened their 2023 Afcon campaign with a 3-0 defeat by defending champions Senegal and then fell to a 1-0 loss against fellow West Africans Guinea.
Saintfiet has coached national sides in four different Fifa confederations and has extensive experience in Africa having previously managed Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi and Togo.
Terenga Lions’ Cruise
Meanwhile, Senegal ended their AFCON 2023 group stage with a 100% record, as they eased past Guinea with a 2-0 win to top Group C.
It has now been established that Nigeria will battle Cameroon in the Round of 16 of the 34th AFCON after the five-time champions edged The Gambia in a see-saw group C finale in Bouake.
Between them, continental giants Nigeria and Cameroon have eight Africa Cup of Nations titles, with the Eagles champions of Africa in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while the Lions triumphed in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002 and 2017.
Eagles, Indomitable Lions Battle In Retrospect
Incidentally, Nigeria was the fall-guy for Cameroon’s first three wins, with the first of those coming right inside the same Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan that will host Saturday night’s Round of 16 duel.
The Lions won 3-1, despite Nigeria going in front after 10 minutes through Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal.
In 1988, Nigeria felt cheated when Mauritanian referee Idrissa Sarr disallowed a goal by Henry Nwosu in the first half at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. Emmanuel Kunde scored from the spot in the second period to win it for the Lions.
In 2000, as co-hosts, Nigeria fell behind 0-2 in a memorable final with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma, before Raphael Chukwu Ndukwe and Jay-Jay Okocha restored parity. The Lions went ahead to win 4-3 after a penalty shootout at the National Stadium, Lagos.
The Lions successfully defended their title in Mali two years later, defeating Senegal on penalties inside Bamako’s Stade March 26, and then came from behind to edge Egypt 2-1 in Libreville in 2017.
However, Nigerians will remember with a song in their heart the Super Eagles’ triumph over the Lions in the quarter-finals in Tunisia in 2004, and in the Round of 16 in Egypt in 2019, as well as the 4-0 win over the neighbours in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Uyo in 2017 that paved the way for Nigeria’s qualification for Russia 2018.
In Alexandria in 2019, also in the Round of 16, eventual tournament top scorer Odion Ighalo scored two of the goals in a 3-2 win, with midfielder Alex Iwobi netting the winner from a fabulous assist by Ighalo.
Saturday’s encounter will begin at 8pm Cote d’Ivoire time (9pm Nigeria time).