National soccer team (Taifa Stars) will throw their first card into the 2014 World Cup African zone qualifiers when they face Ivory Coast (The Elephants) at the Felix Houphoet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan today.
The match is one of 20 at the weekend as Africa begins the race to decide the five countries to go to Brazil in two years’ time.
The match also will be the first competition test for coach Kim Poulsen who replaced compatriot Jan Poulsen a few weeks ago.
While the Elephants arrived from a training camp in France ready for the match, Taifa Stars played only a build up match against Malawi before coming here.
Apart from the Ivorians in Group C, Taifa Stars are also together with Gambia and Morocco.
Speaking in Abidjan yesterday, Poulsen assured all Tanzanians that his side, which is sponsored by Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) through Kilimanjaro Premium Lager, is ready for the showdown against the Elephants which are regarded as one of the continent soccer giants.
He insisted that he is not moved by the fact that his team will play a team made of top world players.
The Danish tactician said his side prepared well for the encounter and the team was accorded a warm welcome by the host Football Association and the atmosphere is also very good.
He further said confidence in the camp is very high and he has instructed his players to attack while being cautious at the back.
“Honestly, we can not complain on the reception. Even the weather is conducive. We are playing away, so definitely we will have to be cautious in our approach. All the same we will attack because we need to score first to unsettle them,” he said, adding that the approach will not be to defend individual players.
The team has also been boosted by the presence of National Sports Council (NSC) chairman, Dioniz Malinzi, who said he decided personally to watch the game so that he can cheer the team.
He also said he believes that the country has a bright future in the squad which is in Abidjan.
“I decided personally to take a flight to come here to watch this match. I’ve faith with these youngsters. Given time they can do wonders,” he said.
TP Mazembe player Mbwana Samata seems to be the only Taifa Stars player who is known by many people in Ivory Coast as many young people have been asking about him.
In today’s game defender Amir Maftaha is expected to start on the left side replacing Waziri Ally while John Bocco is expected to play as a main striker replacing injured Haruna Moshi ‘Boban’.
On the other side, Ivory Coast newly-appointed head coach Sabri Lamouchi said he do not know how Taifa Stars play as he has never seen them playing.
He, however, said they will play with caution as experience has shown that teams which are underrated are very difficult to break.
Taifa Stars’ players in Abidjan are skipper Juma Kaseja, Aggrey Morris, Mwadini Ally, Deogratius Munishi, Amir Maftah, Erasto Nyoni, Kelvin Yondani, Waziri Salum, Shomari Kapombe and Juma Nyoso.
Others are Jonas Mkude, Mwinyi Kazimoto, Salum Abubakar, Shabani Nditi, Edward Christopher, Mrisho Ngasa, Frank Domayo, Mbwana Samata, Ramadhani Singano, Simon Msuva and John Bocco.
Officials accompanying the team include head coach Poulsen, assistant coach Sylvester Marsh, goalkeepers’ coach Juma Pondamali, team manager Leopold Mukebezi, physician Juma Mwankemwa, physiotherapist Frank Mhonda and kit manager Alfred Chimela.
The match will kick off at 20:00 East African time.