Guinea coach Paul Put has spoken about his team’s chances in Group B of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and also stressed on why his team needs to play in a collective way in Egypt.
The Syli Nationale will be making their 12th appearance at the Afcon when they get their campaign underway against debutant Madagascar on Saturday at the Alexandria Stadium.
Aware of upsets that could happen in the biennial competition, Put who led Burkina Faso to Afcon final back in 2013, revealed what Guinea need to do as they aim for their first title.
“There are always surprises, it happened for me when I coached Burkina Faso, no one expected us to go far,” Put told Goal.
“We have Burundi and Madagascar in our group, two unknown teams and such teams are always dangerous, we need to prepare well and understand the nature of African football and the tournament.
“We have Nigeria also in the group, a great experienced team, I told my players to focus on themselves and to play as a unit, that’s our main strength and what could help us overcome our lack of big stars.
“The host country is always the main contender for the tournament, Egypt is a strong technical team with a lot of quality players. There’s also Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, surprises do happen too, you need confidence and luck, but big teams are always the favourites.”
One player who will be expected to star in the colours of the Syli Nationale is Liverpool midfielder, Naby Keita. However, the 24-year-old just returned from an adductor injury sustained on May 1 and is yet to feature in any game since the injury layoff.
Ahead of their opening game against the Barea at the Alexandria Stadium, Put said the midfielder will not be rushed into action
“He [Naby Keita] didn’t play against Egypt, and that affected us, I didn’t like our first 60 minutes, we were playing against a great strong team, and the introduction of Salah made a difference,” he added.
“We won’t rush him back, his situation is different from that of Salah, the latter played a lot, we will prepare him, and hope he becomes ready.”
Another player expected to dazzle for Guinea at the Afcon is Amadou Diawara. The Napoli midfielder was born in Guinea but received Italian citizenship – making him eligible to represent the Azzurri.
On how he convinced the 21-year-old to pledge his international allegiance to the West African country in October 2018, Put said: “It’s tough to convince players [to switch international allegiance].
“Europe is more attractive because it provides stability, and to be honest, it’s hard to compare, but African football is evolving, and players should be more attached to their home nations, but they seek also professionalism.”