• Guinea knocked out in the first round at Chile 2015
  • Qualified for India 2017 after finishing third at the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations
  • Djibril Fandje Toure scored six goals at the competition to win the Golden Boot

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, only returning when the danger posed by the virus had subsided.

The problems it created did not have any impact on performances on the pitch though, as the country’s qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic earlier this year and then for India 2017 showed. Achievements such as those have been made possible by a generation of gifted players who are anxious to show the world what they are capable of.

FIFA.com discussed their prospects with Souleymane Camara, the man who will be taking the U-17 side to India this coming October, a prize he believes his side fully deserves: “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 hasn’t stopped us from earning our place at the U-17 World Cup.”

Looking back on the obstacles Guinea faced in qualifying, Camara said: “There’s talent in Guinea and we also have training academies now. The president of the national FA is in the process of setting up a training centre that will open in six months’ time. 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’.”

A tough test
The draw for India 2017 was not kind on Guinea, who will take on Germany, Costa Rica and Iran in the group phase. “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.”

Setting out his goals for the competition, Camara said: “We have to reach the second round. It’s too early to talk about winning the competition. It won’t be easy because we’ve 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’ve got to go as far as we can, though it won’t be easy.

“Every coach has their own philosophy,” he added. “I feel 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’re going to be competing at a very high level, which means we have to be cautious and respect our opponents.”

Good preparations, big ambitions
Like the rest of the teams who will be running out at India 2017, Guinea are taking their preparations very seriously: “After Gabon 2017 [U-17 Africa Cup of Nations], we agreed to give the players a few weeks off. 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.”

Summing up, 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.”

Guinea’s group matches at India 2017
7 October v Iran
10 October v Costa Rica
13 October v Germany