If Lappe Bangoura wants to take Syli Nationale where they have never gone before: To the finals of the FIFA World Cup™, he has his work cut out for him. FIFA.com spoke to the Guinea coach ahead of their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier.
When Bangoura took over the national team in June of this year, he found a group of individually talented players, who did not work well as a team. Going into his first match against Swaziland, he was stuck with a squad that his predecessor Luis Fernandez had chosen.
A 1-0 defeat followed and Bangoura realised that he needed to do something if he wanted to take the side back to their winning ways. “When I took over, the atmosphere in the group was not good. There was some tension. Once I became coach, I embarked on my own project. I did a tour in Europe, where I met the players.”
One of the players whom Bangoura called up is Francois Kamano, a 20-year-old who plays as an attacking midfielder or a winger. The Conakry-born player joined Bordeaux from Bastia in the European off-season and has been a regular in Jocelyn Gourvennec's Ligue 1 squad.
“Having a local coach is important. He knows the players. Lappe Bangoura knows what is going on on the pitch. At times it is not easy for a foreign coach to have this understanding, as things can be complicated. Under Boura we play a different kind of game. We use a different style. He uses a different formation often to Luis Fernandez. I think Lappe Bangoura is closer to the players.”
After failing to qualify for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Bangoura can concentrate fully on the World Cup qualifiers, where the team has been drawn into Group A alongside Tunisia, Libya and Congo DR. They lost their opening match 2-0 in Tunisia. "The draw for the third qualifying round has not been very favourable to Guinea. Congo DR and Tunisia are the two group favourites. But that does not mean we have no ambition, far from it. It will, of course, be very hard to qualify for the finals. We must take each match as it comes.
“Our first game was in Tunisia and a draw there would have been a very good result. We now face the DR Congo. That means our opening matches are against the favourites. These are two very important matches. But we must not discount Libya. They qualified for the final round because they are a good side,” he said.
Education as priority
Bangoura looks back at a modest career as a footballer. “I decided to concentrate on my studies and played for my university. But the education I received came in good stead later in life.” He moved into coaching at university level, making a name for himself and being asked to take over a number of club sides in Guinea, including Kaloum Hafia and AC Horoya.
Again success followed and he was given the task of coaching the youth teams of his country before being promoted to assistant of the senior side under Robert Nouzaret and Titi Camara. He does not favour a particular formation, instead adapting his style to suit the opponents they face. After the defeat in Swaziland, the Syli Nationale took on Egypt in a friendly and the Pharaohs took a 1-0 lead at half-time.
Bangoura had sent his players into the match playing a 4-5-1, but then changed the structure to a 4-4-2 in the second half and saw his side grab an equaliser. In their next game the coach played a 4-3-3 formation, and again they were successful, beating Zimbabwe 1-0 in their final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
On the field, Ibrahima Traore is his go-between with the players. "I gave him the captaincy... He is very attached to Guinea. He is a great player, and I count on him. His presence is important because he plays in Germany in the Bundesliga, one of the best leagues in the world, and he has great experience.”
Unfortunately for Bangoura and Guinea fans, the winger has had to withdraw from the team that will face Congo DR, making the Syli Nationale's task even more difficult