Revs' Mansally, Nyassi set for tough test in WCup qualifying
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gambia's road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup appears both difficult and treacherous at first glance, according to New England midfielders Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi.
Saturday's qualifying draw in Brazil sent the Scorpions into Group C with traditional African powers Ivory Coast and Morocco and the winner of a qualifying tie between Chad and Tanzania.
With only the group winner set to go through to the third-and-final round of African qualifying, Gambia — likely boosted with a MLS contingent including Mansally, Nyassi, Portland defender Futty Danso and Colorado midfielder Sanna Nyassi — face an uphill climb as they continue their quest for a first berth at a major tournament when qualifying starts next June.
“As far as the group [goes], it's hard,” Mansally told MLSsoccer.com after the Revolution's 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. “We know Ivory Coast, they are one of the big teams in Africa. For us, we're just going to work hard. In our home games, we'll try to get the three points. We know it's going to be difficult for us in our away games.”
Road matches present a series of peculiar hurdles for a squad of players — much like the two heavyweights in the group — that mostly plies its trade outside of Africa. The trying conditions and the imposing trips to intense venues make it difficult for African sides to pick up points away from home, according to Nyassi.
“It's hard to win games away back in Africa,” Nyassi said. “The referees and the fans are always crazy. We need to make sure we get our points at home.”
Mansally and Nyassi said their side can take confidence from its performance so far in 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying — the Scorpions currently sit second in the three-team Group F with two games left to play, though they will likely have to hope to claim one of the two spots available to runners-up with Burkina Faso likely to win the group — and in recent friendlies like the 1-0 victory over Gabon in June as it prepares to embark on its journey towards Brazil in 2014.
“Hopefully, we'll make it,” Nyassi said. “We've been in other groups that are kind of similar, with Senegal and other countries. Senegal is like the Ivory Coast — they have good players — and we gave them a tough time. All we need to do is work hard and get ready for it.”