Scorpions boss Tom Saintfiet has recalled forward Lamin Jallow, goalkeeper Lamin Sarr and midfielder Hamza Barry to his squad for the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023 qualifiers against South Sudan and Congo.

Dunajska Streda midfielder Sainey Njie is also included alongside utility player Sulayman Bojang.

Spezia winger Ebrima Colley and midfielder Ebou Adams are out injured.

The Scorpions host South Sudan on Saturday, 4 June in Thies, Senegal, and travel on Wednesday, 8 June to Congo.

“Naturally, I’m happy that we can play a friendly match (U.A.E), it’s a little bit sad that the matches (AFCON qualifiers) are not played on my requested dates. I would have preferred to play our home match on the 7th or 8th of June and the Congo Brazzaville match later,” Saintfiet said. 

“Now we have very limited time with the players and very limited time to travel and recover but, it’s the start of a qualification campaign and the expectations are high but it’s also very risky because our opponents also know us, and sometimes it’s a risk that we’re too confident.

“We need to put our feet on the ground we need to focus we need to work hard and we need to play tactically the same way we qualified.”

The Gambia reached the quarter-finals of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations on their tournament debut in Cameroon early this year and they will be looking to secure a place in Cote d’Ivoire next summer.

The Belgian is wary of the threat posed by their Group E opponents which also include Mali who they face at the AFCON.

“We’re still ranked 123rd and South Sudan for many Gambians is an easy opponent but it isn’t they’re ranked 161st that’s a ranking we had at the beginning of last year. It’s not going to be easy and Congo Brazzaville is a strong country 98th on the rankings 25 positions better than us so it will be a tough opponent,” said the former Togo coach.

Tom and his charges will travel to Dubai this week for a training camp and play a friendly against the United Arab Emirates on May 29 before traveling to Senegal to play South Sudan.

“We have proved in the past to be competitive in tough games so, hopefully, the majority of the players will be in the Emirates to prepare the team and then we will fly to Dakar.

“Against South Sudan at home, we will try to do our best to get the maximum points and then we look forward to Congo Brazzaville.

“I think always if you can get points away from home it’s an advantage, and at home, you need to win and away you try to steal some points.

“Like I said it will be not easy and in this qualification campaign we need to keep our feet on the ground – we don’t have to think now that we are the major football country yes, we finished sixth at the AFCON but everything starts with zero and we have good quality and respected opponents.”

Gambian fans will be hoping their talisman Assan Ceesay will bring back his rich form in front of goal for newly crowned Swiss champions FC Zurich. Ceesay netted a total of 22 goals for his club this term 20 of which came in the league with 10 assists.

Musa Barrow who impressed at the AFCON was also on target over the weekend scoring the only goal to give his side all three points at Genoa on the final day of their season as they finished in 13th place. 

The Gambia squad:

Goalkeepers: Baboucarr Gaye (Rot Weiss Koblenz, Germany), Lamin Sarr (AFC Eskilstuna, Sweden), Modou Jobe (Black Leopards, South Africa) 

Defenders: Omar Colley (Sampdoria, Italy), James Gomez (Horsens, Denmark), Kalifa Manneh (Taranto, Italy), Buba Sanneh (SonderjyskE, Denmark), Ibou Touray (Salford City, England), Muhammed Sanneh (Pohornie, Slovakia), Sulayman Bojang (Skeid, Norway)

Midfielders: Sainey Njie (Dunajska Streda, Slovakia), Yusupha Bobb (Piacenza, Italy), Sulayman Marreh (AA Gent, Belgium), Ebrima Darboe (AS Roma, Italy), Hamza Barry (LA Galaxy, USA), Mattar Ceesay (Amazulu, South Africa)

Forwards: Musa Barrow (FC Bologna, Italy), Ablie Jallow (FC Seraing, Belgium), Buba Jobe (Norrby, Sweden), Abdoulie Sanyang (Grenoble France), Modou Barrow (Jeonbok, South Korea), Assan Ceesay (FC Zürich, Switzerland), Muhammed Badamosi (KV Kortrijk, Belgium), Dembo Darboe (Shakhtyor Soligorsk, Belarus), Lamin Jallow (MOL Fehervar, Hungary)

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