Surprise side Gambia want to avoid becoming one-tournament wonders

Tom Saintfiet, the Belgian coach who transformed Gambia from minnows to Africa Cup of Nations quarter finalists this year, desperately wants to avoid the fate that befell Madagascar.
Debutants Madagascar took the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt by storm, stunning Nigeria in a group match, then eliminating the Democratic Republic of Congo before falling to Tunisia in the quarterfinals.
But as quickly as the Malagasy rose, they crashed, failing to make it to the 2021 Cup of Nations and winning only one of six World Cup qualifiers.
Saintfiet wants Gambia, a small coastal west African nation surrounded by Senegal, to build on a great run in Cameroon, where they upset Tunisia and Guinea before losing a last-eight clash with the hosts.
“We do not want to be remembered as one-tournament wonders – we want to qualify for the 2023 and 2025 Cup of Nations finals and for the 2026 World Cup,” he told reporters in Gambia.
Gambia play Chad on Thursday, one day after qualifying for the 2023 Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast kicks off, and the Belgian is worried, even though they are facing rivals ranked 180th in the world.
“Our matches against Chad will be tougher than those against Guinea and Tunisia,” insisted the 48-year-old who has coached national teams in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
“We have a lot to lose while Chad have nothing to lose. They can call on professionals based in France and Belgium and are a good team.”
While Saintfiet is wary of Chad, they are one of 10 countries among the 54 in Africa who have never qualified for the Cup of Nations. – AFP

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