Guinea are hoping that home support will help them atone for their embarrassing 4-2 away loss to Burkina Faso when they face the mighty Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.
Syli Nationale Continue To Underachieve
Before World Cup qualifiers began, the biggest doubt surrounding Guinea’s hopes of qualifying was their penchant for putting in shoddy performances and earning inconsistent results. They infamously began their campaign in the previous round of qualifying by drawing at home to Zimbabwe and losing away to Kenya before going undefeated to finish first in their group.
However, true to their unpredictable form, Guinea’s hot streak was halted by the surging stallions of Burkina Faso in the first match of the third and final round of qualifying. Robert Nouzaret’s side were thoroughly humbled by a 4-2 scoreline as it was once again evidenced that his side still have the ability to confound all analysts who back them.
The latest failure on the part of the Guineans points to their main weakness: defence. In their last four official matches they have conceded 12 goals. The statistic is a staggering one which does not bode well for them as they prepare to face one of the finest sides in Africa on Saturday, with strikers and midfielders known for their ability to pick apart underperforming back lines.
Meanwhile, rumblings that coach Nouzaret was set to quit have done nothing to help the cause of the Guineans, who have often been accused of taking their matches lightly and showing a lack of discipline on the nights preceding them.
The only true positive for the Syli Nationale in this match are that they are playing at home, where they tend to concede less often. Furthermore, the fans at the Stade 28 Septembre should provide them with extra motivation that will be desperately needed against the visiting Ivorians.
Cote d’Ivoire Looking To Stay Focused
The Elephants began their World Cup qualifying in style by convincingly thumping Malawi 5-0. However, many neglect the fact that the Flames were without five of their most influential players, who missed the match due to a combination of suspensions and injuries.
Although Malawi are much improved these days, the match is certainly no measuring stick for the current level of the Ivorians. It must not be forgotten that Didier Drogba and his team-mates began the previous round of qualifications hesitantly, as they drew against the likes of Madagascar, Botswana and Mozambique. Unsurprisingly, all the matches in question were played outside of their country.
They must seek to overturn this recent habit of drawing in their away matches if they wish to qualify for the 2010 World Cup without too many complications. They are off to a positive start but wounds from their 2008 African Cup of Nations humiliation at the hands of Egypt in the semi-finals are still fresh and they can ill afford a stumble against the unpredictable and offensively talented Guineans.
Nevertheless, Cote d’Ivoire remain one of the finest squads in Africa and will be motivated by the prospect of qualifying for their second straight World Cup on the back of their European-based stars, who are plying their trades in some of the most prestigious club teams on the planet.
As usual, the Guineans will look to their playmaker Pascal Feindouno for inspiration in attack. He will be paired with Dynamo Kiev’s Ismael Bangoura. Unfortunately, the influential Fode Mansare will miss the match due to injury.
Meanwhile, Nouzaret has made a total of five changes the squad since their humbling loss to Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou. Receiving his first call-up is Richard Soumah from French Ligue 2 side Guingamp.
Squad: Mohamed Nhowe Bangoura, Kemoko Camara, Naby Yattara, Mamadou Dioulde Bah, Dianbobo Balde, Jean Habib Balde, Aboubacar Buenga Camara, Alseny Camara, Ibrahima Camara, Mangue Camara, Alimou Diallo, Oumar Kalabane, Kamil Zayatte, Aboubacar Mbaye Camara, Kevin Constant, Mohamed Sacko, Richard Soumah, Larsen Toure, Amara Kaba Bangoura, Ismael Bangoura, Sambegou Bangoura, Karamoko Cisse, Pascal Feindouno, Ibrahima Yattara, Souleymane Youla.
The most notable addition to Vahid Halilhodzic’s talent-laden roster is that of Toure Yaya, who missed out on the 5-0 rout of Malawi in March. While he wasn’t needed in that encounter, he is certainly a welcome reinforcement for this weekend’s qualifier, where the Ivorians will be facing a much sterner test in an unfriendly environment.
The Barcelona midfielder’s physical presence and crafty tackles will be useful against Guinea’s technically gifted players, not to mention his nose for goal.
Squad: Boubacar Barry, Ibrahim Kone, Badra Ali Sangare, Aristide Benoit Zogbo, Souleymane Bamba, Benjamin Angoua Brou, Guy Demel, Emmanuel Eboue, Steve Gohouri, Igor Lolo, Abdoulaye Meite, Kolo Toure, Kanga Akale, Kafoumba Coulibaly, Emerse Fae, Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso, Emmanuel Kouamatien Kone, Gervais Yao Kouassi , Christian Koffi Ndri, Siaka Tiene, Cheik Ismael Tiote, Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora, Sekou Cisse, Aruna Dindane, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Abdelkader Keita, Arouna Kone, Bakary Kone, Boubacar Sanogo.
Guinea will be fighting their hardest in front of their fans as a second loss will undoubtedly put an end to their World Cup aspirations. Cote d’Ivoire’s recent away struggles don’t bode well for them in this situation but their experience will help them weather Guinean attacks and score some of their own. Look for them to scrape through with some difficulty.
Guinea 2-3 Cote d’Ivoire
Rami Ayari, Goal.com