Comoros, one of the biggest surprises in recent Africa Cup of Nations history, is likely to start its knockout match against Cameroon on Monday with an outfield player in goal.

Comoros wrote history at AFCON 2021, qualifying for the round of 16 at their first participation in the tournament. (Image: Twitter/caf_online)

With two days left before the clash, Comoros has 12 active COVID-19 cases in their squad. Two of those infected are goalkeepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini, who are self-isolating and unavailable. Salin Ben Boina, the third keeper in the Comoros AFCON squad, is injured. The match will go ahead if Comoros has 11 players available, with the competition’s rules not mentioning any special exception regarding goalkeepers.

“A team will be required to play a match if they have a minimum of 11 players available who have tested negative. In the event of the absence of a goalkeeper, another player from the team must replace the goalkeeper, provided the total number of available players is at least eleven,” a statement from the African Football Association (CAF) read.

Right now, Comoros has 12 players in training, but no goalkeeper available for selection. This leaves head coach Amir Abdou, who is also COVID-19 positive, with the only option of starting an outfield player between the sticks.

“We try to deal with the situation the best way we can,” Comoros general manager El Hadad Hamidi commented. “Without the coach, some major players and the two remaining goalkeepers, the situation is quite difficult,” he added.

The fairytale could end with a nightmare

Comoros are competing at their first AFCON ever. They beat Ghana 3-2 to knock them out of the competition and progress to the round of 16. Comoros is not the only national team with a major COVID-19 outbreak at the AFCON in Cameroon, with Tunisia also confirming 12 cases. If Comoros loses two more players before Monday, the team will be unable to start and will forfeit the match.

“A team that does not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2,” CAF rules state.

At Euro 2020, UEFA allowed teams to have a total of 26 players selected in their tournament squads. The minimum allowed to start a game was set at 13, including a keeper. UEFA also permitted national teams’ staffs to call up goalkeepers and replace squad members in case of injuries or COVID-19 infections.

If the match between Cameroon and Comoros does go ahead, the hosts are at -3300 to win in normal time, with a draw at +1500 and a Comoros win at a huge +6900. Considering Comoros has been at +5000 to qualify from its group ahead of the tournament, some might believe a risky bet on the island nation is worth a try. If they do make it into the quarter-finals given their current situation, it would surely be one of the biggest surprises in the history of modern football.