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Shock troopers Guinea aim for more surprises


Guinea will aim to cause more shocks at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations after they upstaged star-studded Nigeria to qualify for the tournament proper.

In October, the Syli National needed a result in a final group game in Nigeria to qualify automatically for the continental showpiece.

They forced the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw and so eliminated their highly-rated hosts, who needed to win to stay in contention for a place at the finals.

The 2012 finals will be their 10th appearance at the biennial tournament and they finalised their build-up for competition in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

They will again be the dark horses in Group D based in Franceville, Gabon, as fellow west Africans Ghana and Mali are favourites to reach the knockout stage with debutants Botswana making up the numbers.

Failure to qualify for the 2010 edition in Angola punctured a consistent run in this competition as they had reached the last eight in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

The closest they have come to be crowned African champions was in 1976, when they lost out by a point to Morocco in a final round-robin format that also included Nigeria and Egypt.

A lot was expected of the Syli Stars at the 2008 competition in Ghana, but they were outclassed 5-0 by Ivory Coast in the quarter-final.

France-based goalkeeper Naby Yattara was impressive in the qualifiers as the team are now a fine blend of youth and experience.

Experience comes in the form of long-time talisman Pascal Feindouno and big central defender Bobo Balde, while Germany-based midfielder Ibrahima Traore represents the new generation.

Feindouno returned to Europe after three years in the Gulf. Last year, he joined French club Monaco and after they were relegated to the lower league, he moved to FC Sion in Switzerland.

This month he quit the troubled Swiss club after they were docked 36 points for fielding ineligible players and his next destination may only be known after the Nations Cup.

He made his name though at famous French club Saint Etienne. He is one of his country's most capped players and for many years the country's skipper.

The attacking midfielder, 31 next month, made his Nations Cup debut in 2004 meaning he will be playing at his fourth competition this year.

UAE-based striker Ismael Bangoura is always a goal threat, while new skipper Kamil Zayatte, who once featured for English side Hull City but now playing his football in the UAE, has brought stability to the defence.

Frenchman Michel Dussuyer has made the most of his second stint with the team. In 2010, he led Benin Republic to the Nations Cup in Angola, where they failed to go past the group stage.

Dussuyer is a tough task master who banned Constant for three matches and fined him 5,000 euros for absconding from the team's hotel during the build-up to a 4-1 home win over Madagascar in June.

He has left out Brest winger Larsen Toure from his final squad. This was after the player was previously banned for snubbing the national team without any just cause.

Former international star Titi Camara is now the country's sports minister and so this team could be rest assured they will get all the backing they need to fulfil the huge promise Guinea have shown over so many years.