AFCON 2023 Preliminaries: Afonso left out of Sao Tome's squad to face Mauritius

Sao Tome Team Picture during the 2021 Africa Cup Nations qualifer football match between Ghana and Sao Tome in Accra, Ghana on 28 March 2021

20-year-old Portugal-based Ronaldo Lumungo Afonso is one of the biggest absentees in coach Adriano Eusebio's 23-man Sao Tome and Principe squad currently in camp in Portugal ahead of next week's TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations preliminary tie against Mauritius Islands.

The forward, who scored two goals in 13 games for Portuguese side Oliveira do Hospital has been surprisingly left out of the squad with just four forwards.

Besides Afonso, veteran forward Harramiz Quieta Ferreira Soares who has featured in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League preliminaries this season for Farense was also another major omissions from the squad dominated by foreign professionals.

15 of the 23 Santoméan players selected for the ongoing preparation camp in Portugal are plying their trade abroad while the rest are from the domestic clubs.

Coach Eusebio and his staff are in the second week of the camp in Portugal which ease assembly of the players picked from around the country, with Feher Mendes of Portuguese side Estrella da Amadora among the three goalkeepers in the squad. The experienced shot stopper is competing with Aldair Almeida of Praia Cruz and home based Bragança Anastácio of Grande.

Sao Tome team arrivals during the 2021 Africa Cup Nations qualifer football match between Ghana and Sao Tome in Accra, Ghana on 28 March 2021

France based Alexander Borja is also one of seven defenders picked from clubs in France, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe.

In the midfield, talented young starlet Ricardo Cardoso, 20, of HJK Helsinki in Finland is one of the rare stars in the team's ranks alongside Altair Cruz of Belgian Amateur second Division side, RSD Jette.

The squad has four forwards in contention ahead of the double-header next weekend.

Defender Leonildo Soares of G. D. Fabril, Lúcio Oliviera and Aldair Dos Santos return to the team after a long absence. Six debutants have made the cut in search of their first cap during the upcoming tie.

As part of their preparations, The Falcons and True Parrots Team has held two warm up games during their time in Portugal, with the training camp closing on March 20, after which the squad will return home.

The first-leg of the tie will be played on March 24 at the National Sports Complex Pitch 1 in Port Louis, and the return game at the same venue three days later.

The winner of the two-legged fixture will progress to the group phase of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers to begin in June 2022.

Jardel Nazare of Sao Tome during the 2021 Africa Cup Nations qualifer football match between Ghana and Sao Tome in Accra, Ghana on 28 March 2021

Sao Tome and Principe squad:

Goalkeepers: Aldair Almeida (Sporting Praia Cruz, Sao Tome and Principe); Feher Mendes (Estrela da Amadora, Portugal); Anastácio (BU FC Grande, Sao Tome and Principe);

Defenders: Ebanilson Viegas (Moncarapanchense, Portugal); Ivonaldo Viegas (UDRA, Sao Tome and Principe); Alexander Borja (Evreux FC 27, France); Edley Montoia(Praia Cruz, Sao Tome and Principe); Lucio Oliviera (Ferreiras, Portugal); Jardel Nazzaré(Uniao Desportiva Santarèm, Portugal); Leonildo Soares (GD Fabril, Portugal);

Midfielders: Jokeceleny Carvalho (UDRA, Sao Tome and Principe); Joazhifel Pontes (UDRA, Sao Tome and Principe); Adjei Neves (Moncarapanchense, Portugal); Adérito Mata (6 de Septembro, Portugal); Joel Leal (Poland); Altair Cruz (RSD Jette, Belgium); Marcos Barbeiro (Real Sport Clube, Portugal); Joel Neves (Oriental,Portugal); Ricardo Cordoso(HJK Helsinki, Finland);

Attackers: Luís Leal (C Deportivo Guabirá, Bolivia); José Semedo (Grupo Sportivo Loures, Portugal); Valter Rocha (Brightlingsea Regent FC); Vander Pinto(UDRA, Sao Tome and Principe);