Guinea-Bissau – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

AFCON 2023 Guinea-Bissau – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

Solace Chukwu 15:28 - 02.01.2024

All you need to know about the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau ahead of AFCON 2023

Guinea-Bissau are now good enough, especially in the 24-team Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) era, to qualify consistently for the continental showpiece, but not quite good enough to make an impression when they do get there. Which is a shame: as they showed during qualifying, they can, on their day, bloody a nose or two. However, something about the AFCON does not seem to agree with them. 

They qualified fairly comfortably, only conceding five goals and dropping the one defeat, impressive considering they were drawn with the surprise package of the last edition in Sierra Leone. They lost only one of their eight matches in 2023 (a 1-0 home reverse to Nigeria, who scored from the penalty spot), winning four and drawing three.

That recent record is only good for 21st in Africa and 103rd in Africa though, per FIFA’s rankings.

The history

The 2023 edition will mark Guinea-Bissau’s fourth participation at the AFCON. To this point, they have yet to either ruffle feathers or pull up trees: the Djurtus will arrive in Ivory Coast in search of their first-ever win in the competition. 

Last time out, despite giving eventual finalists Egypt an almighty scare (they memorably had a goal chalked off in controversial circumstances), they finished bottom of their group behind Sudan, and failed to score to boot.

The coach and tactical approach

The experienced Baciro Cande is in his second spell in charge of the national team, and has been in the post since 2016. That stability has translated into a solid playing style that is built on breaking quickly from a mid to deep block, often in 4-3-3 but lately incorporating a back three for difficult matches.

Guinea-Bissau national football team coach Baciro Cande
Guinea-Bissau coach Baciro Cande

If there is a concern though, it is that Guinea-Bissau are not quite solid enough at the back even with their preference for a deeper block.

Key players

Mama Balde has the biggest profile in the squad, based out of struggling giant Olympique Lyon. Capable of playing upfront as well as on the right, Balde’s movement was key in Guinea-Bissau’s shock qualifying victory against Nigeria, and in a difficult group where opportunities will be at a premium, it is to him that Cande will look for decisive impact.

Guinea-Bissau talisman Mama Balde will be crucial to their hopes at AFCON 2023
Guinea-Bissau talisman Mama Balde

Often starting on the left, Piqueti is a speedy bag of tricks, erratic but exciting by virtue of his willingness to carry the ball forward. He and Moreto Cassama, a silky playmaker with the ability to dictate tempo, will be the key supply line for the centre-forward, and are both capable of chipping in themselves. If they play well, the Djurtus may be able to sustain possession in the final third long enough to actually threaten.

Young player to watch

19-year-old Franculino Dju has been ripping the Danish topflight to shreds with Midtjylland (a goal every 76.5 minutes across 19 appearances in all competitions), and scored on his international debut against Sierra Leone back in September. The Benfica youth product, as one might expect, possesses pace and finishing prowess, but that is not all. He also boasts the physicality and link-up play to suggest he is a serious option to lead the line for the Djurtus in Ivory Coast.

Guinea-Bissau squad for the 2023 AFCON
Guinea-Bissau squad for the 2023 AFCON

Probable lineup

Jonas Mendes; Jefferson Encada, Marcelo Djalo, Opa Sangante, Fali Cande; Janio Bikel, Alfa Semedo; Mama Balde, Moreto Cassama, Piqueti; Franculino Dju

Tournament prediction

Despite boasting a recent competitive victory over Nigeria, it is difficult to see how Guinea-Bissau fare much better than they have done historically. Much will rest on their second group match against Equatorial Guinea: if they fail to win there – and that is no small task in itself – another Group Stage exit awaits.

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