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Libya hope for happy homecoming

06 June 2013, 12:38

Tripoli - Libya enjoy home advantage on Friday in a competitive game for the first time since 2010 when they continue the quest for a maiden World Cup appearance.

The civil war that ended the four-decade rule of Muammar Gaddafi prevented the national team playing in the country since winning an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Zambia.

But despite having to stage 'home' games in Mali, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, the 'Mediterranean Knights' were ranked 13 in the May Fifa Africa rankings.

Now the oil-rich North African country have their sights set on topping Group I, winning a play-off and claiming one of five places reserved for Africa at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Democratic Republic of Congo are the opponents this weekend and having forced a 0-0 draw in Kinshasa last March, Libya can be justifiably confident of securing maximum points.

"Libyans believe we can go all the way in the World Cup qualifying competition and reach the finals for the first time," national football federation president Anwar al-Tashani told reporters.

The 'Knights' trail fallen giants Cameroon by one point in a four-team mini-league despite having beaten the six-time World Cup qualifiers 2-1 in Tunisia last June.

And they face the 'Indomitable Lions' again this September in Yaounde, hopefully as group leaders after home fixtures against DR Congo, and Togo on June 14 in Benina outside Benghazi.

While the 'Knights' enjoy home advantage on successive weekends, Samuel Eto'o-less Cameroon are away to Togo in Lome Sunday and DR Congo on June 16 in Kinshasa.

Libyan football authorities are taking no chances ahead of the clash with the Congolese 'Leopards' at the 60 000-capacity national stadium in capital Tripoli.

Police and soldiers will man checkpoints outside the match venue in a city where post-uprising armed violence and lawlessness can flare.

"There have been thorough security preparations for the DR Congo game with scanners to check for weapons," Al-Tashani assured the local media.

Libya played a warm-up game last weekend in Tripoli, outclassing Uganda 3-0 with goals from Mahamed al-Gnadoudi, Salem Ablou and Faisal al-Badri, and it passed off without incident.

A hamstring injury rules record four-time African Footballer of the Year Eto'o out of the visit to Togo, but new German coach Volker Finke hopes the star will be back for the Kinshasa match.

Other big names missing this weekend include strikers Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, Demba Ba of Senegal and Mohamed 'Geddo' Nagy of Egypt and midfielder Andre Ayew of Ghana.

Drogba is out of favour, although coach Sabri Lamouchi told the national football federation website this week that he planned to recall the Ivorian talisman this year.

Ivory Coast, one point ahead of Tanzania at the top of Group C with an anticipated strong Moroccan challenge failing to materialise, meet modest Gambia Saturday in Bakau.

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