Naby Keita has been named in a 25-man preliminary squad by Guinea for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations finals despite a thigh injury that kept him out of Saturday’s Champions League final.
The Liverpool winger hurt his adductor in the early stages of Liverpool’s semi-final first leg clash at Barcelona on May 1 with manager Jurgen Klopp saying the injury would keep him out for eight weeks.
That effectively ruled him not only out of the last month of Liverpool’s season but also seemingly participation for Guinea at the Cup of Nations in Egypt, which starts on June 21.
Guinea are entitled to call up Keita a fortnight before the tournament and have their own medical team examine him and will be hopeful that the 24-year-old has made a sufficient recovery to be able to compete at the finals, where Guinea are in Group B with Burundi, Madagascar and Nigeria.
Liverpool take on Tottenham in the Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday.
DR Congo’s Luyindama suffers season-ending injury
DR Congo international Christian Luyindama is set to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury
Democratic Republic of Congo international Christian Luyindama is set to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury during the international break.
Luyindama who plays in Turkey for Galatasaray suffered a cruciate ligament tear during his country’s 2-2 draw away to Gambia in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier last week.
He has been a regular for the Turkish Super Lig club this season, playing 15 times across all competitions.
Luyindama helped Galatasaray to a league double last season, having joined the club on loan from Belgian side Standard Liege in January before signing a permanent deal with the Istanbul club ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.
Madagascar’s dream run continues after shootout win over DR Congo
Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina chartered a 480-seater plane to take fans to Egypt
Africa Cup of Nations debutants Madagascar kept their remarkable run going on Sunday with a penalty shootout victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo after a 2-2 draw to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Ibrahim Amada’s wonder strike put Madagascar ahead just nine minutes in at Alexandria Stadium but DR Congo responded swiftly as China-based forward Cedric Bakambu headed home his third goal in two matches.
Madagascar captain Faneva Andriatsima nodded the Indian Ocean islanders back ahead with a quarter-hour remaining only for Chancel Mbemba to haul DR Congo level at a corner in the final minute.
Marcel Tisserand and Yannick Bolasie both blazed over for DR Congo in the shootout as Madagascar prevailed 4-2 with their reward a meeting with four-time winners Ghana or 2004 champions Tunisia for a place in the semi-finals.
“I want to congratulate my players, particularly after we had to deal with that equaliser right in the last minute of normal time,” said Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis.
“We weren’t quite as good as we were against Nigeria. We lacked a bit of juice but our opponents created us a lot of problems for us.”
He added: “I think 25 million will be partying at home. We want to go as far as possible and enjoy it.”
Marco Ilaimaharitra’s suspension forced Dupuis to alter his line-up for the first time in the tournament with Rayan Raveloson deputising in midfield for a team that shocked Nigeria 2-0 to advance as group winners.
Britt Assombalonga replaced the injured Jonathan Bolingi in the lone change to the DR Congo side that trounced Zimbabwe 4-0, with captain Youssouf Mulumbu describing their qualification as a “miracle” following two opening losses.
Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina chartered a 480-seater plane to take fans to Egypt, and the travelling support were soon rejoicing when Amada blasted a sensational 25-yard strike that tailed away from Ley Matampi and flew in off the post.
The jubilant celebrations were halted midway through the first half though when Bakambu slipped free of the Madagascar centre-backs to glance in Glody Ngonda’s bending cross.
Mbemba smashed over as another left-wing cross found the Malagasy defence in trouble, but this was a far more balanced contest than the last meeting — a 6-1 triumph for DR Congo in a 2017 Cup of Nations qualifier.
That hiding was the darkest day in Malagasy football history but they have undergone a dramatic transformation, and nearly regained the lead 10 minutes after the break when Jerome Mombris embarked on a driving run, his shot spilled by Matampi with Charles Andriamahitsinoro agonisingly hitting the rebound wide.
A battling Madagascar eventually regained the lead against a nation ranked 59 places above them when Andriatsima flung himself at a Romain Metanire cross following a superb long-busting run from the right-back.
Bolasie’s tumble in the area provoked furious protests from DR Congo, with VAR not in use until the next round, but the Leopards conjured up another escape act in the 90th minute as an unmarked Mbemba headed in a corner to force extra time.
Madagascar goalkeeper Melvin Adrien kept his team level in extra time with a string of vital saves, the best an instinctive one-handed stop to repel another Mbemba header, while some desperate defending allowed the ‘Barea’ to take it to a shootout and add a further chapter to their Egyptian fairytale.
Africa’s top scorers ready to slug it out in Group B at the AFCON 2019
Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece
The sharpest shooters in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, Odion Ighalo of Nigeria and Fiston Abdul Razak of Burundi, will come face to face in Group B at the finals this month. While Ighalo and his Super Eagles team-mates are favoured to top the four-nation table and advance to the knockout stage in Egypt, Abdul Razak and the Swallows may struggle.
Burundi are the lowest ranked of the 24 sides at the June 21-July 19 tournament and the best they can be expected to hope for is third place below Nigeria and Guinea and above Madagascar. The countries finishing first and second are guaranteed round-of-16 slots while the best four of the six third-placed teams also qualify.
Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece:
The tiny central African country secured a first appearance at the expense of favoured Gabon despite drawing four of six qualifiers.
Algeria-based Abdul Razak starred with six goals at an average of one per match — a total bettered only by Ighalo, who netted seven times. But having tormented the defences of Mali, Gabon and South Sudan, can he wreak more havoc against the Nigerian and Guinean defences?
Olivier Niyungeko, who has succeeded where a string of foreign coaches failed, chose Burundians based in 13 countries and also picked one local, goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana.
Verdict: an early exit looms
A squad coached by Paul Put hope poor dress rehearsals will be transformed into a grand opening night against Madagascar. Warm-up losses to lower-ranked opponents the Gambia and Benin in Morocco could sow self doubts and there has also been the distraction of injured midfield star Naby Keita.
He injured a thigh playing for Liverpool at Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals and admits to “not yet being fully fit”.
Put, who took outsiders Burkina Faso to the 2013 final, will expect a lot from Ibrahima Traore, a winger based in Germany whose footwork can bewilder even the tightest defences.
Verdict: Quarter-finals a realistic goal
Like Burundi, the Indian Ocean islanders who are making their Cup of Nations debut will eye third place and qualification as one of the four best teams in that position. French coach Nicolas Dupuis has worked wonders with a side that got to Egypt by finishing above Equatorial Guinea and Sudan, and he also coaches a lower-league club in his homeland.
He believes practice makes perfect, saying: “Madagascar used to play three or four matches a year and we’re going nowhere. We now make full use of every international window.” Dupuis has also convinced France-born Thomas Fontaine, Romain Metanire, Jerome Mombris and Jeremy Morel to represent a country they are linked to through parents or grandparents.
Verdict: reaching second round would complete a fairytale
The three-time champions are back at the Cup of Nations after unexpectedly lifting the trophy in 2013 and then failing to qualify for the next two editions. They should take advantage of a kind draw and cruise into the second round, but Nigerian supporters will expect much more from a team coached by experienced German Gernot Rohr.
When the Cup of Nations was last staged by Egypt in 2006, the Super Eagles finished third behind the host nation and the Ivory Coast. Apart from former Watford forward Ighalo, Spain-based Samuel Chukwueze could be a major threat having scored regularly for Villarreal in La Liga last season.
Verdict: Anything less than a semi-final place will be considered failure