AFCON 2021: It’s a West African derby as Guinea and Gambia battle for quarterfinal spot

Guinea and Gambia will clash in a West African derby that promises to light up the Round of 16 of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations on Monday January 24th at Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam.

Guinea picked up a dream start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Malawi on January 10 courtesy of Issiaga Sylla’s first-half strike.

This was followed by another somewhat impressive performance as they held a significantly superior Senegal side to an uneventful goalless draw four days later.

Guinea wrapped things up in the group stages with a surprise 2-1 defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe when the sides squared off at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium last time out.

Guinea will miss star player Naby Keita through suspension. The Liverpool midfielder has been orchestrating every move that the team makes at the tournament, as evident by his two man of the match awards in opening games against Malawi and Senegal.

Kaba Diawara will need to find the right strategy to make his frontline get the goals against a very dangerous Scorpions’ side.

“We have reached an important stage and I told my players we have to treat the game as a final. In 2019 we were knocked out on the same stage, but we want it better this time round,” Guinea head coach Kaba Diawara said.

“We have to be very careful approaching the game against a very good Gambia team.”

“What we want is to have the best start against Gambia as we seek the important win that will elevate us to the quarterfinals,” he added.

The debutants from Gambia have been impressive and have literally punched above their weight.

Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet molded a side that is disciplined, fearless and deadly. Gambia picked up an impressive seven points from a group that had two favorites in Mali and Tunisia.

They managed a 1-0 win against Mauritania, a 1-1 draw against Mali, and saved the best for last stunning Tunisia in that late stoppage time 1-0 victory.

Besides conceding a lone goal from the spot, they also have a potent strike force with the likes Musa Barrow and Ablie Jallow.

“Guinea are the favorites, but that actually gives us a lot of motivation because we are in the knockout stages in our first appearance,” Gambia national team head coach Tom Saintfiet said.

“We are not afraid as we have been together with the players for over three years, meaning we have cohesion and great team spirit.”

“Kaba Diawara was my player in Qatar. We can employ different styles and approaches in different match situations. We want nothing short of a win and Guinea must be prepared for a proper duel,” he added.

This will be the first Africa Cup of Nations encounter between Guinea and Gambia, while Guinea are unbeaten against teams making their debut in the competition with three wins and two draws.

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