Thursday Jan 20, 2022. 12:00
Guinea coach Kaba Diawara has called on his team to reach the Quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations in honour of captain Naby Keita.
The National Elephants are safely through to the Round of 16 after finishing as runners-up in Group B behind Senegal, and they will take on the runners-up from Group F (one of Gambia, Mali or Tunisia) in Bafoussam on Monday 24 January.
However, they will do so without Keita, who scored a goal in their 2-1 loss to Zimbabwe on Tuesday but also picked up a yellow card which will see him suspended for their next match.
Diawara believes Keita is one of the best players in Africa and is hoping his team can secure a Quarterfinal spot so that the Liverpool player can prove his class on a grand stage.
“He’s often been injured for the national team, and it’s a loss,” Guinea manager Kaba Diawara told ESPN.
“But we just have to do without him. We’ll play the last 16 for him. He’s given a lot since the first match, and he’s now at an age where he should be among the best players at the AFCON – he wants to prove it – and he can show that… if we get to the Quarterfinals.”
Diawara added, “He had two superb games, scored a goal, and is currently at a great physical level. He’s our best player, so we’ve got to do it for him, but it’s sad news. We have a squad of players, and this is what it’s for.
“He received a yellow card and could have had more,” Diawara continued. “We lose our captain, our star, and it’s sad news.
“Naby was getting stronger, scored that wonderful goal, but it’s yet more bad news. We’ll have to take stock and see, but it’s sad.”
Guinea will know the identity of their Round of 16 opponent on Thursday evening when Group F wraps up with Gambia v Tunisia and Mali v Mauritania.
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