CAIRO (Reuters) – Naby Keita’s departure from the Africa Cup of Nations is a big blow for Guinea but they can overcome it, captain Ibrahim Traore said on the eve of their last-16 meeting with Algeria on Sunday.
Guinea, who qualified as one of the four best third-placed finishers in the group, meet one of the tournament’s form teams without the Liverpool attacker, who is returning to Anfield after suffering calf and thigh injuries during the group phase.
“Naby is our star player. He won the Champions League, so when you have one of the best players on the continent, who plays in a big club but who is not able to help us, it’s a big loss, it’s not easy,” said the 31-year-old Traore, who plays in the Bundesliga with Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“We would all have liked that he is with us, not only for his quality in the game but also for the confidence he brings to the group by knowing that we have a very great player with us who can make the difference.”
But Traore said there was a positive to be drawn from Keita’s absence
“There are other players who also have qualities. It brings us even closer together, knowing that we cannot count on Naby Keita and that now we will have to do it as a team.
“We know that tomorrow will be a very tough match. Algeria has played the best football at this tournament so it will be like a final for us because we know we are playing a better team than us,” he told Saturday’s pre-match news conference.
“We have nothing to lose, the pressure will be on our opponent.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Clare Lovell)