26th March 2016
Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier
Stade du Ville, Djibouti City, Djibouti
Djibouti 0-1 Liberia
The third group match for Djibouti in African Cup of Nations qualification offered slim hopes of a positive, or indeed neutral, result for Djibouti, but it probably offered the best hope of all their group fixtures.
With that in mind, that the Shoremen of the Red Sea lost by a single second half goal is both a sign of hope and a frustrating missed opportunity. Hope, because it has provided a demonstration that Djibouti are not so far out of their depth as to be unable to compete, and with that it offers a degree of positivity moving forward. Frustration, because the chance for a draw, or even a win was there, but was ultimately not taken.
The only goal of the game came midway through the second half courtesy of Liberian winger Anthony Laffor; a player previously expelled from the national team for “unacceptable behaviour”. There is a lot of positivity to take from this performance and result in spite of the defeat, however. In providing a sterner test for the opposition than had been the case in the recent CECAFA Cup games, Djibouti have produced a solid, controlled and tough display that made them difficult to beat.
Going forwards, there is the repeated fear that there is very little threat to the opposition goal. This is of course an issue that has to be resolved if real progress is to be made, but solidifying the defence is a good initial step to improvement.
There is an early opportunity to exact an element of revenge and to test whether Djibouti can remain tougher to beat or whether this was simply a flash in the pan. These same two teams now travel to Monrovia, Liberia, for the return fixture in which Djibouti need to attempt to build on this positive showing, remain solid, and if at all possible try to sneak a result.
For Liberia, this win has put them fully in the reckoning for qualification to the finals next year, and they will undoubtedly be going all out for another three points in the home match to consolidate their position ahead of the sterner tests that await them later in the group. That will make it a tough trip for Djibouti, but this performance has demonstrated that it is not one that they should fear overly at least.