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banner Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Liberia's Lone Star surprises
Liberia national team
The Lone Star players face a huge challenge in Nigeria
At the start of the African World Cup qualifying campaign for Japan/Korea 2002 no pundit imagined that among the top contenders for one of Africa's five slots would be the Lone Star of Liberia.

But they are on the verge of seeing a dream become a reality as they play their most crucial game against African giants Nigeria on Saturday, 6 May in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt.

George Weah of Marseille and Liberia
George Weah remains the soul of the Liberian squad
On paper, a clash with the Nigerian Super Eagles should send some shivers down the spine of the Lone Star team but most significantly the Nigerians are the underdogs in this instance because Liberia can afford to lose and still qualify for the World Cup 2002.

One remarkable thing about Liberia is that the team has not changed change much (if at all) from the squad that participated, for the first time ever, in the African Cup of Nations in 1996 in South Africa.

They have become more of a family than just an ordinary football squad.

Most of them are playing in small clubs or not playing regularly, but almost all of them have been around Europe for a long time.

  Group B Table
1 Liberia P5 GD 8-4 Pts 12
2 Sudan P5 GD 5-5 Pts 9
3 Nigeria P5 GD 6-3 Pts 7
4 Ghana P4 GD 6-4 Pts 4
5 S Leone P5 GD1-10 Pts 3
The pillars of the squad are George Weah, James Debbah, Kelvin Sebwe and Joe Nagbe. These four have been playing for the Lone Star for a period of about 14 years - since the Supreme Council for Sports Zone Three Tournament in the Liberian capital, Monrovia in early February 1987.

Other influential members of the team are Zizi Roberts, Prince Daye, Oliver Makor, Musa Shannon and Christopher Wreh.

Profiles

George Weah:
King George is the real soul of the team.
Chairman, manager, coach, captain, player and even sponsor: these are the roles played by the former World Footballer of the Year.
The World Cup would be a dream come to true for Weah and the ideal conclusion for the career for the best African footballer Europe and the world has seen.
And Fifa too would be delighted to have the Unicef ambassador in Korea-Japan.

Zizi Roberts:
James Debbah of Liberia
James Debbah fractured his leg some weeks ago and may not be fully fit

Talented striker who is often used as a right back because of the high number of strikers in the Lone Star team.
He only joined the squad about five years ago.
Played the defensive role during his spell in the Italian second division.
He seems to fit into several utility roles as a defender, or striker or libero.
He was brought to AC Milan by George Weah but he never found his form and was loaned here and there before being sold last summer to Panionios for the record fee of the Greek club.
Now having a good season in Greece.

Kelvin Sebwe:
Vice captain and the man who's in charge of the penalties.
He is a midfielder with vast experience, including eight seasons in Europe between France, Belgium and Greece.
He was taken by George Weah to Europe in 1989 and began with Monaco before moving on to French side Toulouse.
He was also on loan to Belgian club RC Liegios for a season in the early '90s, where he was voted best African player in the Belgian league.
He was the first Liberian to play in Greece and appears to be the driving force in many Liberian players ending up there.
Always reliable, he is right there when the Lone Star needs him.

Joe Nagbe:
He is the current captain and has had at least ten years playing in Europe, starting off like George Weah with Monaco then on to Nice.
He has been playing in Greece over the last three years.
He used to be instrumental, but is now without a club and not on top form.

Christopher Wreh:
Wreh could have been the new Weah, but definitely failed to fulfil his potential in France, England, Greece and Holland.
A great talent who seems to be declining after difficult spells at Monaco, AEK Athens and Arsenal.
His best season in Europe was at Guingamp in France.
He is now trying to revive his career in Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless his importance for the national team has never waned.

James Debbah:
Captain of the Lone Star and another Weah protégé who also had a spell at Monaco during the time Weah was there.
It is not clear whether he will be playing because he suffered a broken leg in a Nations Cup qualifier in Congo-Brazzaville a few weeks ago.
He has been the scorer of vital goals for the Lone Star.
Now playing for Iraklis in Greece, Debbah has played in France (Monaco, Lyon, Nice, and Paris Saint Germain) in Belgium for Anderlecht and in Turkey for Ankaragucu.

Liberia's full squad:
Louis Crayton (24 years old) (Schaffhausen, Switzerland) 10 caps
Fallah Johnson (25) (LPRC of Liberia) 33 caps
Varmah Kpoto (Kpyas Dpysis, Greece) 22 caps
George Gebro (Panetoukos, Greece) 10
Zizi Roberts (Panionios , Greece) 32
Joe Nagbe (Capt) (Contract terminated at Panionios) 77+ caps
Kelvin Sebwe (Panahaiki, Greece) 63 caps
John Menyongai (Minnesota, USA) 1 cap
Oliver Makor (Prodeftiki ,Greece) 17 caps
Musa Shannon (Maritimo, Portugal) 14 caps
Alex Browne (no club currently - played in Switzerland recently) 18 caps
Prince Daye (Bastia, France) 21 caps
Christopher Wreh (Al-Hilal, Saudi Arabia) 35 caps
Edward Dixon (AS Frontignan, France) 6 caps
George Weah (Marseille, France) 80+ caps
James Debbah (Iraklis, Greece) 80+ caps

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See also:

04 May 01 |  Africa
Nigeria v Liberia preview
03 May 01 |  Africa
World Cup preview
23 Apr 01 |  Africa
Liberia rise as Nigeria fall
29 Mar 01 |  Africa
Liberia's Debbah out of action
05 Feb 01 |  Africa
Weah wants to play on
04 Apr 01 |  Africa
Weah eyes Marseille future
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