Guinea, who have made a solid start to Round 2 of the African qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, will have no margin for error as they embark on a potentially perilous trip to face Group G rivals Mozambique.
That said, Guinean defender Ibrahima Diallo and the rest of the Syli national appear confident and united as they prepare for this crucial encounter.
FIFA.com caught up with the defensive stalwart recently to discuss his side’s Brazil 2014 aspirations, how coach Michel Dussuyer has brought more balance to the team and why missing out on the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations could end up being a blessing in disguise.
“Not making it to the Cup of Nations was hugely disappointing,” he admitted. “But in the end, that failure brought the team closer together. We moved on without complaining, while pinpointing what went wrong. And now, we all share the same mindset and are focused on the same goal. The squad is like a little family,” explained the Angers left-back, hopeful that this current side can propel Guinea to the forefront of African football and perhaps even to Brazil 2014.
According to Diallo, Michel Dussuyer’s declared targets in the run-up to the duel in Maputo on Sunday 24 March are simple: take at least a point away to Os Mambas, then rack up two home victories in June before travelling to Egypt at the beginning of September for a potential winner-takes-all clash.
“If we need to go and pick up a result there to qualify, we’ll know exactly what to expect – it’ll be hellish. But to be honest, we’re ready for it,” said the Ligue 2 player.
Part of Guinea’s 2012 Africa Cup of Nations team, the Conakry native, who attended CS Bretigny’s youth academy in the suburbs of Paris, has established himself as one of his country’s key players in recent times.
Called up for the first time in July 2007, the former Charleroi and Oostende full-back now has sufficient experience and know-how to gauge the potential of a team built by Dussuyer that, according to Diallo, reflects the coach’s personality.
Kept on after the disappointment of missing out on the Cup of Nations in South Africa, the French tactician will celebrate three years in charge of Guinea in June, providing a level of stability that meets with Diallo’s enthusiastic approval.
“The coach puts great emphasis on our movement, be it in defence or attack, making sure we make intelligent decisions when we start runs off the ball. He’s a real stickler when it comes to our balance – he asks us to remain compact and avoid getting too spread out. Everyone’s 100 per cent behind him.”
As a close-knit group, the Guineans learned a lot from the 2012 edition of the continental tournament. “We realised in our opening match against Mali that top-level matches can be settled by the tiniest of details. We made a mistake that cost us dearly, and we weren’t able to make up for it in the two matches that followed,” recalled Diallo.
Alternating between 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, Dussuyer nevertheless maintains a consistent approach as well as the same faces to carry out his instructions on the pitch. Since the defeat by Niger in October 2012, the coach has made only small adjustments. His confidence in the squad remains intact, and Diallo is happy to accept the responsibility that comes with his more established status.
“I’ve taken a few of the new guys under my wing to help them to fit in. No-one gets forgotten about; the moment a player has a problem, we approach him and make him feel at ease. Coming together to defend the colours of your country is a real pleasure,” he explained. Diallo and his team-mates will be hoping that Sunday’s match will provide another pleasurable experience.