Photo credit: Mohamed Fajah Barrie
By Mohamed Fajah Barrie
An optimistic Leone Stars coach Amidu Karim insists that he has no special plans for Lethal Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah when his side host the Pharaohs in the second round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on Sunday at 16:00GMT.
The group A game to be officiated by a quartet referees from DR Congo will take place at the Samuel K. Doe stadium in neighbouring Monrovia because the Siaka Stevens stadium in Freetown which had previously failed to meet international standards to host Leone Stars matches is currently under massive renovation.
The in-form Liverpool player Mohamed Salah netted four goals against Djibouti at home in a 6-0 win three days ago to hand the Pharaohs a perfect start in their quest to reach the 2026 finals in USA, Canada and Mexico.
The quadruple took his tally to 16 goals so far for both club and country this season.
But the focus of the Leone Stars players will not be only on the former African player of the year.
“Salah is a very good player, we all know the kind of player he is. He’s playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world,” the 49- year- old Amidu Karim told Sierra Leone Football.com.
“We have plans for the whole Egyptian team, not only Salah because if you playing against Egypt and you only concentrate on Salah you’ll get it wrong.
“There are also other good players in the team, so the focus is not on Salah alone but the entire Egyptian team.”
Coach Karim knows very well the Egyptian football culture having spent nearly a decade and half in the North African country playing for four different clubs in the top and second tier leagues during his playing days before returning home in 2009 to join FC Kallon where he hung his boots and started his coaching career.
He believes that they’ll upset the seven times African champions Egypt presently ranked 35 in the Fifa world ratings, 87 places above them, despite hosting the Pharaohs away from home.
“To be honest playing our match away from home is difficult it takes away home advantage from us, I know we’ll get more fans behind us in Freetown than Monrovia.
“But our chances against Egypt are good because we are well on track. We know it’s not an easy match but we’re well prepared to upset Egypt and I’m very optimistic that we’ll get all the three points from Egypt.”
“I don’t predict score lines in football, I always believe that if I train well and plan well I’ll get good result.
“So far so good, we’ve trained and planned well and I’m optimistic that we’ll be victorious on Sunday,” added the former Sierra Leonean international who played for Leone Stars from 1990 to 1997 with his last game against Morocco in Freetown in a 1998 World Cup qualifier which they lost 1-0.
Sierra Leone have an edge over Egypt in terms of head to head meetings -the two countries have met twice before in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations elimination series.
Sierra Leone held Egypt away in Cairo 1-1, and won the return leg on home soil 2-1 in a dead rubber encounter.
Denmark based Alhaji Kamara will be the stand-in captain of Leone Stars if he’s picked to start, or QPR’s Osman Kakay in the absence of skipper Steven Caulker who’s currently without a club.
Other players expected to be in the starting XI are Emmanuel Samadiya, Mohamed Kabia, Abdul Jarju Kabia, Jonathan Morsey, Augustus Kargbo, Alhassan Koroma and Derby County’s Tyrese Fornah.
Egypt will surely be led by their talisman Mohamed Salah. Their midfield is to be marshalled by Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny likely supported by Marwan Attia, Omar Marmoush and Zizo with Mostafa Mohamed or Trezeguet paring with Salah upfront.
The Pharaohs who are leading group A with maximum points from their opening match against Djibouti are going to the match as favourite but doesn’t guarantee them a win against a well determined Leone Stars side currently tied in fourth place with Ethiopia.