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Guinea set target of reaching knock-out stage

31   //    30 Sep 2017, 19:25 IST

Margao, Sept 30 (PTI) African side Guinea have set a modest target of reaching the round of 16 in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

Guinea, who are placed along with Germany, Iran and Costa Rica in Group C, will arrive in Goa on October 3. They play their first match against Iran on October 7 here.

Coach Souleymane Camara said his side can reach the knock out round for the first time in their history.

"It's too early to talk about winning the competition. We have got players who are still developing. They're going to be coming up against professional players who've already picked up valuable experience at reserve-team level with clubs like Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Despite that gap, we'll be giving everything we have got to go as far as we can," he said.

"We should be dreaming about getting beyond the group phase, something that no team from Guinea has ever done before. After that, we can start focusing on the following rounds and trying to go all the way. We need to bear in mind that we are going to be competing at a very high level, which means we have to be cautious and respect our opponents."

He said it won't be easy for his side to wriggle out of the group stage.

"It's a difficult group. The Iranians played Japan three times and came away with a win and two draws. I'm expecting them to be very strong. I've spoken with the coach of Costa Rica, who I think will be one of the best teams at the U-17 World Cup, along with Brazil. And as for Germany, they don't need any introduction.”

Guinea were knocked out in the first round at Chile 2015 and qualified for India 2017 after finishing third at the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations.

The Ebola virus struck Guinea hard between 2014 and 2016, claiming the lives of 2,543 people and sending thousands others to hospital. During that time the country's clubs and national team were forced to play their home games far away.

Looking back on the obstacles Guinea faced in qualifying, Camara said: "It's the result of a lot of hard work. We made it despite the problems we had at the Africa Cup of Nations. I'm a young coach coming up against some very experienced operators, but that has not stopped us from earning our place at the U-17 World Cup."

"Ebola caused us a lot of problems but we managed to rise to the challenge. The success we've had is down to the talent of the Guinean players, and it's not for nothing that we're known as 'the Brazil of Africa'," said Camara.

"Our preparations are going as expected. We had a one- month training camp in Italy followed by another ten-day camp in Abu Dhabi. And we're going to keep on preparing hard so that we can spring a surprise at the World Cup."

Camara underlined the importance of improving on Guinea's performance at the U-17 World Cup Chile 2015, where they drew with England before losing to Korea Republic and Brazil.

"I hope we can do better than a couple of years ago. We need to work hard if we're going to do that because it's a big step-up in class from the Africa Cup of Nations to the World Cup. Personally, I see myself as an ambitious coach who's always looking to get good results

Press Trust of India (PTI) is a news agency in India
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