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Preview: Guinea vs. Gambia

In Monday’s opening Round of 16 match at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Gambia has an excellent opportunity to continue their inspired run against a Guinea side lacking star midfielder Naby Keïta. Guinea are coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to already eliminated Zimbabwe to wrap up their group stage, and without Liverpool player Keïta there is good reason to believe the Syli National are vulnerable. Gambia are fully confident and have nothing to lose as the Scorpions embrace the underdog label.

Guinea manager Kaba Diawara has a difficult challenge ahead with Keïta not being the only notable absence. Veteran defender Ousmane Kanté will miss the match and concerns remain about young forward talent Aguibou Camara, who is facing a race to get back to fitness since an injury suffered in the team’s opening match against Malawi. Influential left back Issiaga Sylla should be ready following his recovery from a thigh contusion. Manager Diawara stressed that the match against Gambia must be approached with caution and acknowledged that the Scorpions have excellent chemistry due to the time their squad has spent together. Midfielder Amadou Diawara stressed along with his coach that the match against Gambia will be treated as if it were a final and that a good start is crucial.

This Gambia team gradually built up strength through the last several years and many of its squad members are benefitting from competing for playing time at European clubs. Its Italian-based contingent includes center back Omar Colley and forward Ebrima Darboe, who comment in an article from The Guardian that playing in Europe has helped the players learn to prioritize results over attractive football and earn more experience when it comes to winning close games. Gambia manager Tom Saintfiet stated that Guinea will need to be ready because his team will be playing the match of their lives on Monday and there is plenty of motivation to continue their run deep into the competition.

Key Matchup: Issiaga Sylla (GUI) vs. Ablie Jallow (GAM)

Sylla is a reliable left back for Guinea who likes to get forward and spend his time in the attacking end. Gambia’s Ablie Jallow has been influential cutting inside from the right flank to dribble at defenders and cut inside onto his favored left foot, but the question is can he provide enough defensive help on the flank while still making an impact going forward?

Prediction: Gambia 1-0 Guinea

News Links

Guinea vs Gambia – A West African affair (CAF Online)
Syli National : des nouvelles de l’infirmerie (Foot224)
Gambia Motivated by Underdog Tag in Clash with Guinea (This Day)

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