Liberia: Thomas Kojo eyes 2023 Nations Cup qualification after succeeding Peter Butler

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Thomas Kojo coaching the Lone StarsThomas Kojo is in his fourth spell coach Liberia

New Liberia coach Thomas Kojo is hoping he can take his country to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals in neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Kojo was appointed on 17 September on an interim basis to replace Englishman Peter Butler, whose contract ended last month after 15 defeats, five wins and two draws.

"My first priority is to improve on what my predecessor did since I was his deputy (from March). He did a good job by bringing some youthful players into the squad," Kojo told BBC Sport Africa.

"We have not been doing well in the qualifiers, [not] reaching the finals since Mali 2002.

"I want to qualify Liberia to Ivory Coast with the support of everyone, including the government and Liberia Football Association (LFA).

"My task now, together with my staff, is to make sure we get a team that can compete internationally by getting some of the older players, who are playing and want to make a contribution to their country, by mixing them with the youth."

The 50-year-old has appointed Liberia's women's senior national team head coach Robert Lartey as deputy and former Liberia internationals George Gebro and Nathaniel Sandi Sherman as physical trainer and goalkeeping coach respectively.

Kojo's first task is a friendly with Niger on Sunday, before facing Egypt on 27 September at the Cairo International Stadium.

He is returning for a fourth stint in charge of the Lone Stars, having served as interim coach following the dismissal of Italy's Roberto Landi in February 2012, in 2014 and then replacing former international teammate James Debbah in July 2018.

Kojo was dismissed as head coach following Liberia's elimination by Senegal in a 2020 African Nations Championship qualifier in August 2019 and was subsequently replaced by Butler.

His unceremonious removal in May 2012 drew a rebuke from the LFA from legendary footballer George Weah, who is now President of Liberia.

And Kojo has set out an elaborate plan hoping the LFA and Weah-led government will give him time to prove his credentials with no competitive international football for Liberia until March 2023.

"I intend to build a strong local national team that will train regularly like it was done when I was active, which has been absent for a period of years," Kojo added.

"We have talented and skilful local players, who need to train and camp regularly so that we can look up to them whenever our overseas players aren't available.

"With the work that I am going to put in place with my technical staff, I just need the support from the LFA and government when I submit my programs and plans after the friendlies."

With just three teams in their qualifying group and the top two securing spots in Ivory Coast, Liberia have arguably their best chance of reaching a Nations Cup finals in years.

However the Lone Stars and South Africa are both pointless in Group K, with Morocco leading the way with six points following Fifa's disqualification of Zimbabwe for governmental interference in the running of the game.

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