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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Not Musa Barrow, Cherno Samba picks Gambia's standout performer

5:25 AM GMT+8 26/01/2022
James Gomez
The Horsens centre back has been the key man for the Scorpions in Cameroon, according to the former England youth international

Former England youth international striker Cherno Samba has picked James Gomez as Gambia’s star performer at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Scorpions – playing in the biennial African football showpiece for the first time ever – have been one of the surprise packages of the ongoing tournament in Cameroon.

Against all odds, they qualified from Group F that paraded Mali, Tunisia and Mauritania – finishing as runners-up with seven points.  

In their Round of 16 fixture against Guinea, they triumphed 1-0 with Musa Barrow’s second-half effort settling the fixture at the Kouekong Stadium.

While showering praises on Tom Saintfiet’s men for their awe-inspiring displays so far, he feels Gomez has been the team’s most outstanding player, not minding the fact that Barrow and Ablie Jallow have contributed two goals each.

“He is an unsung hero at the moment – maybe people who understand football will know what I am talking about,” Samba told GOAL.

“For me, the person who has stood out the most is our centre back and his name is James Gomez.

“I think without him, we would have struggled. Everyone keeps going with the attacking flair, people who have scored the goals and so on, but this is the guy who stops the goals.

“No disrespect to other players, James Gomez is my number one player for the Gambia and he has been so impressive.”

Shortly after Saintfiet’s team saw off the Syli Nationale, Samba – who switched allegiance to the West African country despite representing England at U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20 levels – went on social media to celebrate his compatriots.

“The Gambia has finally got the attention from the football world that we deserve Maaaan I’m so proud of these players,” he wrote on Twitter.

“After so many years of building, we have not only qualified for our first ever Afcon, but we’re now in the quarter-finals!”

Gambia face hosts Cameroon in the last eight on Saturday at the Japoma Stadium in Douala.

Victory for them will see them pick a ticket to the semi-finals where they would be eyeing a shot in the final slated for February 6.