Liverpool midfielder Keita reflects on Guinea’s Africa Cup of Nations failure

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After the Syli Nationale failed to qualify for the 2017 edition of the tournament, the 23-year-old was subjected to criticism

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita has reflected on Guinea’s failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

Having featured in the 2015 tournament and reached the quarter-final stage, the Syli Nationale’s hope of qualifying for the 2017 edition was dashed after finishing third in Group C behind Mali and Benin Republic.

Although they have secured their place for the 2019 edition of the tournament, the midfielder has taken time to open up on the criticism he was subjected to following their disappointment two years ago.

“It's great that we are actually qualified,” Keita told Liverpool's official magazine.

“Everyone in the country was very sad last time when we didn't make it.

"I got a lot of stick myself and people criticised me because I am almost the figurehead of the team.

“I was playing in the Bundesliga in Germany so I was someone who played at the highest level so people were angry with me.

“I defended myself and said 'look, there's a squad of 23 and we have always said that we win together and lose together' and that we were all responsible in good times and bad.

“As skipper I felt that failure to qualify. The responsibility falls at my feet and that's what it can be like in Africa.”

The decision to shift the Africa Cup of Nations from January to the summer has also been lauded by the midfielder.

“I think it's great that this decision has been taken and the fact that it's going to move to the summer is going to help us a lot,” Keita continued.

“It's really positive. It will help us and it will help the club as well because it will mean we won't be missing so many games.

“From a point of view of both maintaining regular form and in my case the settling in process over the full season, it's really positive because we won't have any break in the continuity.”

Keita is hoping to work hard so as to play regularly for Liverpool and make his countrymen happy, having struggled for consistency since joining the Reds last summer.

“It's an absolutely unbelievable thing because the way people get in front of the TVs when Liverpool play, you'd think it's almost like when our national team is playing," he added.

"I've been told that if the fans back in Guinea have all switched on their TVs and I'm not in the starting XI sometimes they can be angry and frustrated.

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"I'm the only Guinean player who is at a top club so I have to work really hard. Everyone believes in me back home so not only do I have to do my job here for all the fans at Liverpool, but I've got to do it for the whole of my country back home."

Keita who impressed in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Crystal Palace last weekend will hope to be involved when they take on Leicester City on January 30.

 

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