One of the big surprises in the African qualifying rounds for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ was the struggle Nigeria had to endure before booking their ticket to the finals. And the team that gave them most of their problems was Liberia.
The fortunes of Liberia were, at that stage, closely aligned with one man: George Weah. The former FIFA World Player of the Year coached the side, played in the side and more often than not spent his own money to bankroll the qualifying campaign.
Unfortunately for Weah, who was at that stage already in the twilight of his career, a 2-1 defeat at home against Ghana cost the side a first-ever appearance at the showpiece of international football. Weah thus joined the ranks of other football greats who never had the opportunity of playing at the finals.
After this near-success, the Lone Stars were now hoping for an even better campaign at the 2006 qualifiers, but it got off on the wrong foot against Gambia, slipping to a shocking 2-0 defeat in Bakau.
In the return leg in Monrovia, Zizi Roberts opened the scoring for the home side early in the match before Isaac Tondo added two late goals (the match-winner five minutes from time) to send the home fans into delirium and the Lone Stars into the group stage.
They found themselves in the massively tough Group 1, however,
along with Togo, Senegal, Zambia, Congo and Mali, they slipped to
eight defeats with only one solitary win and a draw to show for
Liberia have now appointed German coach Tony Hey to take charge of their 2010 qualifying campaign but have been handed a tough draw with Algeria, the Gambia and Senegal in their group.