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21.09.2004 Football News

Big blow to national Under-21 team

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Accra, Sept. 21, GNA - The preparations of the National Under-21 team, the Black Satellites towards their first leg game against Cote d' Ivoire on October 3, has suffered a major set back with their central defender bogged down with injury problems.

The team has lost the services of their reliable central defender, Alex Ankobea to injury with only a week to their crucial qualify which can make or unmake their chances of playing in the championship.

Ankobea twisted his right ankle during the team's international friendly game played against their counterparts from Benin at the Accra Sport Stadium last week.

The defender according to information gathered by GNA Sports has been put in a cast, Plaster of Paris (POP) that would take about six weeks for the injury to heal.

The intelligent and collective defender who plays for local Division One side, FC Mitdjyland's injury has forced the Francis Oti-Akenteng's led technical team to be counting their losses with regards to playing any friendly game ahead of the October 3 showdown.

The coach described the player's predicament as a big blow to the team's preparation and game plan when the GNA Sports spoke with him.

"His injury is a huge set back at this crucial time. He is one of our best players and the team had a lot of confidence in him at the back".

The coach proposed shifting King Faisal's defender, Iddi Yahaya from the right full back to the central defence in the absence of the dependable and influential Ankobea.

The coach was emotional when he said "His services would be greatly missed but Iddi fared well when he was shifted to the central defence in the second half of our 2-0 win against Benin.

The coach expressed concern about exposing his boys to further risks when quizzed about the preparation towards the game.

"We are very worried about the current problem and contemplating on not risking any of the boys by way of playing any friendly games to jeopardise the chances of the team".

He said he was cautiously optimistic about the Satellites chances against their creative opponents but insisted "we have what it takes to scale the Ivorien hurdle irrespective of the level of opposition they might present. The boys are very aware of the stakes involved and we have trained very well that it would be difficult for any team to beat us".

"Many might not give us a dogs chance, but our performance in our build up against Hearts and Kotoko among others is there for the world to see our capabilities".

The former AshantiGold coach said the team's biggest strength was their ability to organize well and their confidence in taking on the world irrespective of the standings of the opponent.

"The team work has been splendid and we hope to ride on that to bring glory to the nation"

The team broke camp after the Benin game and is expected to reassemble on Saturday, September 24 ahead of the duel.

The game, a final eliminator qualifies the victor to the next AYC billed for Benin early next year.