Guinea’s Deep Bench Aims to Fill the Void and Lift the AFCON Crown

The Africa Cup of Nations begins in January and hosts Guinea are hoping leading striker Serhou Guirassy will be fit to compete. The 27-year-old VfB Stuttgart star limped off early in a friendly international against Nigeria in the United Arab Emirates on Monday but coach Kaba Diawara is optimistic the injury will not derail their plans to defend their crown.

Guirassy has been in spectacular form this season, netting 17 times for the Bundesliga outfit. His goal tally puts him only behind Harry Kane in the German league?s scoring charts and has drawn attention to the former France youth international from the likes of West Ham.

If Guirassy can remain fit, he will add to an impressive strike force that already includes Liverpool star Mohamed Salah and Issiaga Sylla, who plays for FC Nantes. The tournament will be held across six stadiums, including a new 60,000-capacity Ebimpe Olympic Stadium constructed especially for the event. Games will also be staged in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Guinea, and in Bouake, San Pedro on the coast and Korhogo in the north of the country.

Despite ranking 15th in Africa, Guinea have made little impact on the latter stages of recent AFCON tournaments. They start the campaign as underdogs in a group containing Senegal, Cameroon and Gambia but Guirassy could help them defy the odds.

Guirassy’s injury may have implications for West Ham, who reportedly view him as a prime January transfer target. The Hammers have struggled to score goals this term and bringing in the 27-year-old striker would be an excellent addition. However, Financial Fair Play rules are likely to restrict the club?s spending and Guirassy’s injury will probably rule out a move in the next two weeks.

The AFCON finals are due to be played on February 11 and a winning team will pocket $7 million in prize money, 40 percent more than the previous champions. Senegal are favourites to retain their title with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane at their peak, while South Africa, led by Manchester City goalkeeper Nicolas Jackson, have a deep squad with players such as Victor Boniface and Samuel Chukwueze at their disposal.

The finals will be played in the 60,000-capacity Ebimpe Stadium and venues in the cities of Yamoussoukro, Bouake, San Pedro, and Korhogo. Organisers hope that the tournament will have a greater economic impact on the nation, which is heavily dependent on tourism. The organisers are also hoping that the quality of the football will be better than the last edition, which saw an average of just over two goals scored per game.

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