Tanzania national soccer team Taifa Stars take on the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan in a 2014 World Cup first leg qualifier on Saturday.
The Tanzanians, led by head coach Kim Poulsen, have expressed optimism of shocking the hosts in their own backyard.
Continental power house Ivorians are the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finalists and are the overwhelming favourites.
“Cote d’Ivoire are among the most formidable teams on the continent, so defeating them needs a spirited fight and a bit of luck.
“We are aware of the magnitude of the match and my players are in a positive frame of mind. I have a feeling that Stars will record historic win in Abidjan,” said the Dane, who replaced his compatriot Jan Poulsen early this month.
Even as the coach exuded confidence, the Stars face a tall order to tame the Elephants who boast the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Solomon Kalou and Gervinho, all of who are shining stars in the English Premier League.
Speaking during a farewell ceremony, Tanzania deputy minister for Information, Culture, Youth and Sports Amos Makala, urged Taifa Stars to put up a spirited fight against their highly touted opponents.
“You have difficult opponents. We all know of Cote d’Ivoire’s quality, but their strength should not faze you.
“You have all it takes to beat a strong team with household names, so go to Abidjan and strive for victory,” said the deputy minister.
Makala said a victory against the Ivorians would put Stars in a strong position in their battle to qualify for the 2014 World Cup for the first time.
While Cote d’Ivoire are expected to field a mostly-foreign based squad, Taifa Stars have one such player in Mbwana Samatta, who features for TP Mazembe of DR Congo.
“I watched the Stars-Malawi friendly (last Saturday), you created two decent chances, but unfortunately you could not find the back of the net. Take positives from that warm-up and double your efforts against the Ivorians,” Makala added.
Taifa Stars first choice goalkeeper and captain Juma Kaseja acknowledged that Cote d’Ivoire were difficult to beat, but promised to strive for maximum points to the last minute.
“We have a tough test ahead, but we have seen many teams defy the odds and beat the strong ones. Our opponents are super favourites, but we are representing the nation and we are ready for the challenge,” he said.
The National Sports Council (NSC) chairman, Dioniz Malinzi, who is part of the delegation to Abidjan said Stars were mentally strong ahead of the tricky match.
Stars squad: Goalkeepers: Juma Kaseja, Mwadini Ali, Deogratius Munisi.
Defenders: Nassoro Masoud Cholo, Amir Maftah, Shomari Kapombe, Kelvin Yondani, Juma Nyoso, Erasto Nyoni, Waziri Salum, Agrey Morris.
Midfielders: Mwinyi Kazimoto, Edward Christopher, Jonas Mkude, Ramadhan Singano, Salum Abubakari, Mrisho Ngassa, Shaaban Nditi, Frank Dumayo.
Strikers: Mbwana Samatta, Haruna Moshi, John Bocco, Simon Msuva.