Luck is no longer part of the Guinean mindset as they prepare for their quarter-final against Ghana in Malabo. It was very much part of their thinking for the 19 or so hours from the end of their final Group D game against Mali on 28 Janaury in Mongomo until
their lot was drawn from a bowl at the Malabo Hilton shortly after 4pm on 29 January.
“Waiting in such a way was different,” said Guinea coach Michel Dussuyer. “We are used to being active, playing on the field to decide what the result will be. But waiting for a draw was very difficult. But we were lucky.”
Dussuyer emerged from the 1-1 stalemate with Mali to condemn the method of drawing lots to determine who progressed. His Mali counterpart, Henri Kasperczak, echoed his sentiments along with both sets of players.
Since the outcry, the Confederation of African Football, which organises the Cup of Nations, has said it will look at changing the regulation.
However the anger of Mongomo has subsided. Determination covers the movements of the Guinea player as they go through their paces at a training session at La Paz stadium in Malabo ahead of the tie with Ghana.
“We know Ghana and they know us,” added Dussuyer. “We realise it will be difficult but we will be focused on getting the result.”
Guinea were last in the quarter-finals in 2008 when the Cup of Nations was held in Ghana. The teams played then in the group stages – Ghana won – and the nations clashed again in the group stages during the Cup of Nations three years ago. Ghana emerged victorious also on that occasion. There were two more games in the qualifiers for the 2015 competition which produced a draw and another Ghana victory.
“It’s true we didn’t beat them during the qualifiers,” reflected Dussyer. “But we created many problems for them. We just need to play as well in the quarter-final.”
It has been 38 years since Guinea reached the semi-finals. The side back then in Ethiopia went on to the final but lost to Morocco.
“Lots of people in Guinea are saying that we’ve done really well to come this far and that they’re proud of us,” said skipper Ibrahima Traoré. “We’re football players. We’re competitors. We believe we can go further.”
The 26-year-old midfielder added, “We don’t want to lose. Even if Ghana are a big side, if we go out we’ll be disappointed.”
Ghana have been to the semis in the past four tournaments. It’s an intimidating record. Third in 2008, runners-up in 2010 and two fourth place finishes. They ooze pedigree. Vice-captain André Ayew is only 25 years old but this is his fifth Cup of Nations.
Nevertheless the Guineans do not consider themselves the underdogs. They held their own against Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Mali in Group D. If they snatched the luck of the draw it is because they gave themselves the chance.
“We want to play a good match and the players have a chance to make a name for themselves,” Dussuyer added. “Now it’s nothing to do with chance. The issue will be decided on the field. Ghana have lots of good individual players with lots of experience. But we can cross a threshold. We do not lack ambition.
“The first goal of getting out of the group stage has been reached, albeit with a little luck. The next one is to beat Ghana.”