YAOUNDE. – Fate can be really cruel and Africa Cup of Nations giant-killers Comoros will play today’s last-16 game against hosts Cameroon without a recognised goalkeeper.
Salim Ben Boina was injured in their final Group C match, while fellow keepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini have tested positive for Covid-19.
Nations Cup rules state sides must play if they have 11 fit players.
However, the 40/1 underdogs’ task has been made even harder by the fact that they have no fit goalkeeper.
First choice Salim Ben Boina was stretchered off in their sensational win over Ghana and is out through injury.
That would have left it a straight choice out of back-up stoppers Moyadh Ousseini and Ali Ahamada.
But both understudies have tested positive for Covid and are unable to play – leaving the Comoros with a major problem.
The news is a massive blow to the minnows as they prepare for the biggest game in their history.
And it only mounts to their troubles with a total of seven stars missing due to coronavirus.
Comoros goalkeeping coach Jean-Daniel Padovani said an outfield player would go in goal.
“We have already chosen an outfield player who will start as a goalkeeper,” Padovani said.
“He is a player who, during training, showed that he could play as a goalkeeper,”
The Coelacanths, ranked 132nd in the world, have been hit by a coronavirus outbreak affecting players and management ahead of their meeting with the Indomitable Lions today at 9pm.
Defenders Kassim Abdallah and Alexis Souahy, midfielders Nakibou Aboubakari and Yacine Bourhane and forward Mohamed M’Changama are all out of the game, while coach Amir Abdou also tested positive.
Comoros are playing at the tournament for the first time in their history and reached the knockout stages after beating Ghana 3-2 and finishing third in Group C.
After their win over Ghana, goalscorer Ahmed Mogni said the players had entered the island nation’s history books.
“This is something special – this victory is historic,” said the forward, who plays his football in the French third division with FC Annecy.
“When we open the history books in the next couple of years, it will be all these players who will be inside.”
Comoros, rated 132nd in the world, are the third lowest-ranked side of the 24 teams in Cameroon for the tournament as the former French colony only joined world governing body FIFA in 2005.
Nonetheless, their triumph now has their coach dreaming of another major upset – reaching a first World Cup finals – which could become easier when the tournament expands to 48 teams from 2026 onwards.
“I believe it’s possible that this team can have a World Cup qualification,” added Marseille-born Amir Abdou, who has coached the team since 2014.
A nation of less than one million inhabitants spread across an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Comoros had to wait until 2016 for their first qualifying win, at the 20th attempt, when they beat Botswana in a Nations Cup tie.
“I know that the whole country partied, the whole population was celebrating last night until this morning,” said Comoran journalist Elie Djouma, who is following the team in the tournament.
“Lots of journalists didn’t go to work because they went to bed too late. You know, Comoros is a country where football is becoming more and more of a crazy thing. No matter when the team returns home, they’ll be well received.” – The Sun/BBC Sport.