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18.10.2008 Football News

Kotoko Must Salvage Image

By George Osei -

KUMASI Asante Kotoko have pride to play for as they take on Sudanese side EL Merreikh this evening  in the closing stages of the group phase of the CAF Confederation Cup  this weekend.

The Ghanaian champions missed an opportunity to be in contention for qualifying to the final after drawing 2-2 with Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in Kumasi two weeks ago.

That result meant they cannot now progress further in this year's competition, and have to avoid defeat in Omdurman  not to finish bottom of Group B.

They left Ghana last Tuesday without technical head Bashir Hayford, and it remains to be seen whether he would be asked to continue as head coach when the team returns.

The mantle of guiding the team to success falls on assistant coach Johnson Smith who must plot the strategy that would ensure Kotoko's first victory on North African soil in competitive competition.

They fielded  a team that matched them in Kumasi in the first leg game, struggling to a 1-0 victory courtesy an 88th minute strike by lead marksman Eric Bekoe.

That painful defeat will be on the minds of the Sudanese as they go into this battle, but victory for them will also not guarantee them passage to the final as they lost their penultimate game 1-3 to J.S. Kabylie of Algeria in Algiers two weeks ago.

They, like the Ghanaians will be playing for pride as they have nothing to fight for, but would like to end on a good note as they plan for next season.

Merreikh currently leads the Sudanese league after 15 games, and have set their eyes clear on making a strong impression in the more prestigious champions league competition next year.

The same applies to the Ghanaian champions who had high hopes of making it to the final of this competition this year.

Lack of fire-power especially in their away games robbed them of that opportunity, and they can look forward to the campaign in Africa next year, having learnt a great deal from this experience.

Either Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia or J.S. Kabylie of Algeria will win the group and with it, advance to the final of the competition to play the winner from Group A.

The Algerians lead the group by two points, and need a draw to go through.

A win for the home side Etoile, will set them up