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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: 'They can do a Zambia' – Cherno Samba talks up Gambia's title credentials

19:20 IST 22/01/2022
Gambia Afcon 2022
The former England youth international believes the Scorpions can repeat Chipolopolo’s feat by claiming the African diadem as underdogs

Former England and Gambia striker Cherno Samba says the Scorpions can take inspiration from Zambia’s Africa Cup of Nations heroics and claim a maiden African title.

Making their debut at the biennial African football showpiece, Tom Saintfiet’s men are one of the surprise packages of Cameroon 2021 – qualifying for the Round of 16 without losing a game.

Apart from holding Mali to a 1-1 draw, Gambia shocked former champions Tunisia 1-0 in their last Group F game, with Ablie Jallow scoring a last gasp goal at the Limbe Stadium.

The ex-Cadiz and FK Tonsberg striker – whose promising career was truncated by injury and now works as a player representative – says his compatriots can take heart from the shock triumph of Chipolopolo in 2012.

“It is a joy to watch them. I didn’t expect what I am seeing but I know these boys are talented and the team boasts quality. They have taken all of us by surprise,” Samba told GOAL.

“They can do a Zambia and shock a lot of people. We can win this tournament because the boys are hungry, full of confidence and fingers crossed, they can go all the way.”

To reach the quarter-finals, the West Africans must negotiate their way past Guinea on Monday evening at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam.

Notwithstanding the pedigree of the Syli Nationale, the 37-year-old is bullish of Gambia’s chances when they try Kaba Diawara’s men for size.

“Forget about the Guineans, I would say there is no team in the competition that wants to face the Gambia because we are the most consistent team at the moment,” he continued.

“Whether Nigeria or Egypt, no one wants to face us, however, I strongly believe we will beat Guinea because the confidence is so high.

“If you look at Guinea’s progress, they haven’t come out to show everyone what they can do.”

Samba also shared what is working well for Saintfiet’s side despite the fact that they are playing in the championship for the first time in their history.

“They are playing as a team, not as individuals, they work hard, they understand where they are coming from and they know what is at stake,” he added.

“They were the underdogs in so many games they played especially the qualifiers. So, everyone doubted them and that’s why they are doing what they are doing at the moment.

“As things are, I will not settle for anything less than a semi-final or a place in the final now because they [Gambia players] have given us a taste of what can be.”