Guinea recently underlined their footballing pedigree by again reaching the quarter-finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
Robert Nouzaret's team played with some elan as they squeezed through from a very tight group after a 2-1 loss to Ghana, a 3-2 win over Morocco and a 1-1 draw with Namibia. Unfortunately, they found the mighty Côte d'Ivoire blocking their path in the last eight and collapsed to a 5-0 defeat. Even so, the inconsistent Guineans had every right to be pleased with making it to the last eight in the first place.
Despite this impressive record, the Syli Nationale are still chasing qualification for their first ever FIFA World Cup ™. In fact, not since their first appearance in the 1974 preliminary tournament have the west African side really come within touching distance of the finals, with the exception of 2002. In that campaign Guinea made a promising start in their group and were preparing to go head-to-head with South Africa for a place in Asia, only to be disqualified on political grounds after the country's government was found to have interfered in the affairs of the Guinea Football Association.
The episode came as a bitter blow for the supporters and only reinforced the players' determination to show the world that they would have qualified for Korea/Japan 2002 had it not been for an administrative decision. Nevertheless, for all their best efforts, they failed to qualify for Germany 2006, finishing third in a tough Group 5 - which also featured the likes of Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Malawi and Botswana - despite recording five victories, two draws and three defeats.
Guinea's promising young squad is notable for the quality of its forward line, which includes Fodé Mansaré, Souleymane Youla, Ismail Bangoura and Saint-Etienne striker Pascal Feindouno. To take this promising generation to the next level, the national FA appointed experienced coach Robert Nouzaret in December 2006. His task has been to rein in the offensive urges of a side that tended to cast caution to the wind in its quest for goals, and introduce a more rigorous, defence-minded system. So far, the approach seems to be paying off.
In 1976 Guinea finished runners-up in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations behind Morocco after drawing 1-1 with the north Africans in the deciding match of the final pool. That second-place finish remains the most notable achievement in Guinea's history, even overshadowing their 14-0 thrashing of Mauritania in 1972.
Qualification for the ever FIFA World Cup finals remains Guinea's main objective, however, and their qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010 starts with group competition against Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe.