Equatorial Guinea's unexpected AFCON success continues as they face Guinea in a crucial match for a coveted quarterfinal spot.
A Guinea derby is set to ignite the stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations as Equatorial Guinea and Guinea lock horns in the round of 16 on Sunday, 28th January at Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium at 8 pm.
This exciting matchup promises to be a clash of titans, with both teams eager to secure their spot in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
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Equatorial Guinea, the surprise leaders of Group A, will face off against Guinea, who qualified as one of the four best third-placed finishers.
Equatorial Guinea enters this knockout stage encounter as the underdogs who have defied all odds in Group A. Against strong competition including tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau, they emerged as the group leaders.
With a total of 9 goals scored in just three matches, the Nzalang Nacional boast the best attack in the competition so far.
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Leading the charge for Equatorial Guinea is their striker and captain, Emilio Nsue Lopez, who sits atop the tournament's scoring charts with an impressive 5 goals to his name.
This is Equatorial Guinea's fourth appearance in the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON, with their best showing being a semi-final berth in the 2015 edition.
Juan Micha, the coach of Equatorial Guinea, has maintained a humble approach to their success, emphasizing the importance of taking each match as it comes.
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"I think we are here to tackle match by match. We are already in the round of 16, which will be a difficult match. We are not favorites. We always respect the opponent. We take the match as a normal game, and we will work hard in our preparation.
We are a humble family who work every day to improve. The results we have achieved do not mean that we are the best. We work every day and take things step by step," he said
Emilio Nsue Lopez has undoubtedly been the star of the show, overshadowing more renowned names such as Victor Osimhen, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane.
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Emilio Nsue is shining at AFCON 2023, where he is the current top scorer with five goals, defying age in a stunning football resurgence.
His incredible hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau solidified his status as a goal-scoring maestro and made him the first player to achieve such a feat since Soufiane Alloudi in the 2008 edition of the tournament.
On the other side of the pitch, Guinea has navigated their way to the round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed finishers.
The Syli Nationale finished with 4 points in Group C, behind leaders Senegal and level on points with Cameroon but with a superior goal difference.
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Guinea's best showing in the Africa Cup of Nations dates back to 1976 when they reached the final, only to fall short against Morocco in a memorable showdown played in Ethiopia.
Recent editions have seen them eliminated in the round of 16, but they remain a formidable side with a quarter-finalist pedigree in 2006, 2008, and 2015.
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Guinea's coach, Kaba Diawara, is confident and well-prepared for this crucial match.
"We prepared for this match as usual. At this stage, we can no longer work on the physical aspect. We work on tactics; we insisted on working on what we want to put in place.
In the round of 16, there are no favorites. We are much better than in 2021 and know each other better. All we want is to win tomorrow. We know that the group stage has nothing to do with the knockout stage. It’s another AFCON which is direct elimination. We just have to win, and I insist on that," he sated.
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One significant boost for Guinea is the return to fitness of Serhou Guirassy, a 27-year-old striker who has been in sensational form for Stuttgart this season, scoring 17 goals in just 14 appearances.
His absence was felt in their previous matches against the Indomitable Lions and the Scorpions, and his presence could be a game-changer for Guinea in this critical encounter.
This match marks the first-ever meeting between these two homonymous nations in the Africa Cup of Nations, adding an extra layer of intrigue to an already exciting fixture.
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With both teams hungry for success and the prospect of advancing to the quarter-finals at stake, football fans can expect a thrilling contest as Equatorial Guinea and Guinea battle for supremacy in this Guinea Derby.