• Guinea have beaten Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire in the last six months
  • Have yet to secure a point in the final round of qualifying for Russia 2018
  • Guinea have a double-header against Libya in a few weeks' time

There are just a few days to go before the African qualifying competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ gets back under way, with several teams anxious to return to action and take another step towards the finals.

For others, meanwhile, the resumption will give them the chance to atone for faltering starts to their campaigns and close in on their rivals. The next round of games will take place at the end of this month and in early September, with the qualifiers reaching their conclusion with two final matchdays in October and November.

After losing 2-0 in Tunisia and then going down 2-1 in Conakry to Congo DR, Guinea are one of the sides with much to do and will be hoping to get back into contention.

Discussing his side’s luckless start, Guinea coach Lappe Bangoura had this to say to FIFA.com: “I haven’t been in the Guinea job for long and it’s my first taste of coaching at this level. I need time to adjust and impose my philosophy. We played well at the start but we couldn’t put our chances away. We also struggled tactically. I’ve been able to get my message across since then, though, and my players have started to take it on board. We’ve progressed mentally and tactically, as our latest results have shown.”

Moving forward
Judging by their recent form, Guinea seem to have put their early Russia 2018 qualifying stumbles behind them. After beating reigning African champions Cameroon 2-1 in a March friendly, they then saw off Marc Wilmots’ Côte d’Ivoire 3-2 on the opening matchday of the CAF 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

With two crucial Russia 2018 qualifiers coming up against Libya, Bangoura wants to see his side maintain their momentum: “The double-header is very important. We’ll be playing to win and to regain our confidence. It’s a chance for us to see where we really are after the work we’ve put in these last few months. We’ll build on it and keep on working with the squad.”

Awkward opponents
Bangoura is well aware that Libya will be no pushovers. Jalal Damja’s men beat Cape Verde Islands in their final qualifying match for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and then kicked off their bid for a place at the 2019 continental finals with a thumping defeat of Seychelles. “The Libyans play very well as a team” said Bangoura. “They lost their first two games but they’ve done a lot of work on tactics and the mental side of things. We’re also going to try to be well organised tactically because they have some good players.”

So what does he need to do for Guinea to pick up better results? “We need to start upping the tempo,” said Bangoura. “We’ve been finishing games strongly, but it’s time we learned to play well in the first half too. Given the way things have been going for us in the last few months, we want to have our say in the next two World Cup qualifiers.”

World Cup dreams
African football watchers see Tunisia and Congo DR as the favourites to grab the one ticket from the group to Russia 2018. Anything can still happen, however, and Bangoura has yet to give up hope: “Our chances are slim but we can still make it. We need to win our last four matches and see what our rivals do. Our first objective is to be there at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. We’ve still got out chance of making the trip to Russia too, and we’ll be giving it everything till the end.”

In signing off, Bangoura said that qualifying for the World Cup could be a turning point in the history of Guinean football: “With the way results went in the first two matchdays, qualification is no longer our priority, but it would be historic for the game in Guinea. It would definitely have a huge psychological impact. As I said before, we need to put everything we have into winning the last four matches and keeping our World Cup dream alive.”

Guinea’s remaining Russia 2018 qualifying fixtures
31 August: Libya (H)
4 September: Libya (A)
2 October: Tunisia (H)
6 November: Congo DR (A)