It’s a wonder Guinea managed to qualify for this tournament at all, making it against all odds, having to play their final home games in Morocco due to the deepening Ebola crises that affected their country so badly. Things started respectably enough on the football pitch, a win over Togo followed up 4 days later by defeat in Uganda. A double header against the Ghanaian Black Stars followed, a creditable 1-1 draw for the ‘home’ leg in Casablanca which preceeded a 3-1 defeat in Tamale where Asamoah Gyan terrorised the Guinea defence. This left the National Elephants with a lot to do with just two fixtures remaining but they were more than up to the task, with two assured mature performances, trouncing the Togolese 4-1 and then securing qualification with a 2-0 win over Uganda. Across these two games young star Seydouba Soumah was to net 4 goals, in addition to an earlier goal in the opening qualification fixture and will be one to watch in Equatorial Guinea.
Pre 2000, Guinea’s history at the Cup of Nations was almost non-existent, group stage exits in 1980, 1994 and 1998 bettered only by a runners-up finish in Ethiopia 1976. Post-millennium though, fortunes upturned for the West African Republic. An initial period of disqualification due to Government interference was followed by three consecutive Quarter-Final exits. Since then a first-round exit in 2012, the highlight of which was a 6-1 annihilation of Botswana brings us up to date.
Manager Michel Dussuyer, who has previously worked with the Cote D’Ivoire and Benin national teams will have his work cut out, to get the team through to the knockout stages having been drawn in Group D along side the much-fancied Ivorians, Cameroon and Mali. Drawing on a majority of players based in the French and Belgian leagues, it will be Ibrahima Traore of Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach who will be leading the line with Soumah, and the attacking pair will be who opposition defences will look to close down.
The National Elephants have been dealt a very hard blow with the Group they play in at AFCoN 2015. After the tribulations of no qualification games on home soil and the devastating nature of the deadly Ebola virus rampaging through their homeland, they will look to restore pride in the nation and many a neutral will back them for exactly that reason. Even with this in mind, I don’t see them having quite enough to make the knockout stages, had the draw been even slightly kinder to them I would have tipped them to ruffle some feathers and make another Quarter-Final appearance but alas, I see the other Elephants from the Ivory Coast and Cameroonian sides having the strength and quality to go through. But Guinea will prove to be stern tests for all sides they face and any side taking them for granted could end up on the wrong side of an upset result.