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Afcon Qualifiers: Ex-Liverpool and Tottenham’s Caulker on importance of Nigeria duel to Sierra Leone

21:22 GMT+4 05/05/2022
Steven Caulker Sierra Leone
The hopeful central defender was recently appointed the captain of Leone Stars

Sierra Leone captain Steven Caulker has explained why the Nigeria match will be of particular importance to them during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification process.

Sierra Leone are in Group A with Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe. They will start their qualification process with a game against the Super Eagles before facing Guinea-Bissau a few days later.

"We have to be at our best for every game and against Nigeria is an opportunity to put Sierra Leone on the world football map," Caulker, on loan to Gaziantep from Fenerbahce in Turkey, said, as quoted by CafOnline.

"I'm sure like we did in the last Afcon, we have to be at our best for all games, not just against Nigeria, we should go into every game with the ambition to win."

As he anticipates a difficult game, the former Liverpool defender pointed out that the Super Eagles will look to recover after they were eliminated by Ghana in the World Cup qualifiers.

"Our qualifying group is going to be tough, obviously Nigeria will be looking to bounce back from their disappointment following their elimination to Ghana in the 2022 World Cup," he added.

"The qualifiers will therefore be a way to forget the disappointment, so it will be revengeful and difficult to maneuver around the Nigeria team, which will be in front."

However, the 30-year-old pegged his hopes on the calibre of the players in Sierra Leone’s team.

"It would be difficult, but I'm excited to start these qualifiers, we have a lot of new talent, new players, a new system, and a new identity," the former Tottenham Hotspur defender stated.

"I am really delighted to be able to lead this group in qualifying."

Sierra Leone will play their qualifiers away from home due to the unavailability of approved stadiums, and Caulker rues that they will miss a chance to have the presence of their fans.

"To be honest, I would have loved to play in front of our fans in Sierra Leone, but that's how it is, we have to be ready. It's always good to face the best, it creates that challenge," he continued.

During the last international break, they played against Liberia and Congo and won 1-0 and 2-1, respectively, after they had lost to Togo by a margin of 3-0 in March.

Caulker made his international debut for the Leone Stars in the 0-0 match against Algeria at the Afcon finals in Cameroon earlier this year.