Comoros, Cameroon and the curious tale of no goalkeepers

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

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COMOROS RAIN OR SHINE

While the fairytale story of Comoros’s journey to the knockout stages of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will some day make an inspirational feel-good movie, one suspects Disney’s scriptwriters will have to leave out some of the finer details on the grounds that audiences may find them just a little bit too far-fetched.

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Hailing from a financially impoverished archipelago with a population of less than one million people located off the east coast of the continent, Les Coelacantes pulled off something of a miracle in merely qualifying for Afcon but certainly weren’t expected to make it this far. Two defeats in their opening group games with a match against Ghana to come meant a predictably early exit was assured, until the plucky journeymen of Comoros went all supernova on the Black Stars, beating them 3-2 in one of the greatest upsets in African football history.

After several days of what must have seemed an interminable wait, Amir Abdou and his players learned they had not only done enough to book a spot in the last 16, but would be pitted against their hosts Cameroon. A nation many millions outside the continent had never heard of as recently as a fortnight ago suddenly became many people’s favourite African team.

So far, so Cool Runnings or Mighty Ducks … but then things started to get a little implausible. Over the weekend it was revealed that Comoros would be forced to play one of their outfield players in goal against Cameroon tonight after first choice in net, Salim Ben Boina, was injured and his understudies Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini tested positive for Covid-19. With tournament rules stating that teams must fulfil their fixtures if they have 11 fit players, Comoros accepted their fate.

“We have already chosen an outfield player who will start as a goalkeeper,” said their goalkeeping coach, Jean-Daniel Padovani, who we can only assume had an extremely busy weekend. Without revealing the identity of the poor sod being askedto emulate Hatch in Escape to Victory, he assured fans that “he is a player who, during training, showed that he could play as a goalkeeper”.

Fast forward to Monday morning, when it emerged that actual Comoros goalkeeper Ahamada had tested negative for Covid and the subsequent announcement that he would in fact be able to play. Then fast forward a little further to Monday afternoon and the slightly more subsequent announcement from the tournament organisers that, er … actually, no, he won’t. Despite the good news about Ahamada’s test being negative, blazered tournament organisers were quick to point out that Caf rules state a player who tests positive for coronavirus must isolate for five days before taking another PCR test 48 hours before his side’s next match, and therefore Ahamada’s negative was not the positive he and his compatriots originally thought.

With several other players and their manager also ruled out of tonight’s game through injury or Covid, Comoros may well ship the mother of all hidings from Cameroon. But whatever the outcome at the Olembe Stadium – and let’s not rule out the possibility of the greatest upset in the history of international football – here’s hoping they leave the pitch with dignity intact and their heads held high.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join John Brewin NOW for piping hot MBM updates from Guinea 1-2 Gambia. And Scott Murray will be on hand from 7pm GMT for the big one: Cameroon 1-1 Comoros (7-8 on pens).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The Marley concert at Dalymount is one of Ireland’s truly special musical events, his only ever Irish show and, sadly, his last ever outdoor one. His love of football is widely known to all, and that he played on our famous pitch before the concert, the same turf that some of the world’s best players have graced such as Pelé, (George) Best and (Zinedine) Zidane is amazing” – A Bohemian FC suit announces a collaboration with the family of Bob Marley to release a kit featuring the reggae legend, 42 years after he played at their stadium. Sales of the kit will help raise money for refugees across Ireland.

Woof.
Take my money. Photograph: Bohemian FC./PA

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FIVER LETTERS

“Judging by Spurs’ starting line up against Chelsea yesterday I guess Conte could’ve easily been granted a postponement for ‘lack of enough decent players’” – Marcio Aquino.

“Listening to commentary on EPL games recently had me wondering … when did players stop getting their shots ‘in’ and start getting their shots ‘away’?” – Allastair McGillivray.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Marcio Aquino.

BITS AND BOBS

Everton are due to hold talks with Sinbad from Brookside former Fenerbahce and Porto manager Vítor Pereira as they continue their exhaustive search for a manager. Meanwhile, police have charged a 19-year-old man with assault after Lucas Digne and Matty Cash were struck by a plastic bottle thrown from the stands during Aston Villa’s 1-0 win at Goodison Park.

V&#xed;tor Pereira loves toffees.
Vítor Pereira loves toffees. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira called referee Kevin Friend “naive” for awarding a penalty to Diogo Jota after the forward flew sideways into Vicente Guaita like a moth to a flame during Liverpool’s 3-1 win.

Antonio Conte reckons he knows why Spurs have lost three times to Chelsea in a month. “This club is on another level compared to us,” he sniffed. Tottenham’s Dele Alli could be destined for a door marked Do One, with Newcastle a potential destination for the 25-year-old if their move for Jesse Lingard fails.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank will remain as Brentford’s Thomas Frank until 2025 after the Dane scrawled his name on a new contract with the London club.

A meeting to discuss the future of Derby has been postponed to allow administrators to make “additional progress” with an interested party, which could be good or bad news for fed up Rams fans.

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Things were a little easier at Celtic, huh Dedryck Boyata. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

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