Despite missing several key players for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria, Sierra Leone head coach John Keister is optimistic of a positive result against the Super Eagles, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

The Leone Stars battle the Eagles on match-day five of the AFCON qualifiers at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium in Liberia on June 18.

The Eagles won the last encounter between the two sides 2-1 at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, on June 9, 2022.

As a player, Keister was part of the Leone Stars side that recorded a famous 1-0 victory over a star-studded Nigeria side that included Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Nwankwo Kanu and Julius Aghahowa, during the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup qualifiers in Freetown April 21, 2001.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s encounter, Keister hopes for a repeat of the win.

“We know how difficult it can be in football, but then again I am not the one for excuses, I just believe in doing the work and concentrating on what we have to do and doing it to the best of our ability because that is all that matters,” the gaffer said in a video posted on the Sierra Leone football’s federation Facebook page.

“We are going there (Monrovia) to compete and that is a fact. We are not going there to lie down, this is a time when I don’t really need to tell the players the significance of the game because they should understand that and should relish the challenge of coming up against Nigerian players that are doing very well abroad.

“I remember in 2001, I was part of the Sierra Leone team that beat Nigeria 1-0 and this was when no one expected anything from us. I have that feeling again with this team going to Liberia to face Nigeria, despite the challenges we have with players suspended, several personal issues and injuries, that we can do it again.”

He added, “We can’t afford to show them too much respect and that is a fact in football. It is about how badly we want it and how much we can motivate the boys and trust them to go and perform. Like I said, they have some good players doing well abroad, but it is about how we approach the game and we will go into the game with a very strong mentality as we have always done.”

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