Burkina Faso/Guinea Bissau: Burkinabe Chase Place in Afcon Quarterfinals

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\n \n Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

\n In a major blow to Burkina Faso, Jonathan Pitroipa, at right, has been ruled out of the rest of the Africa Cup of Nations because of an injury.

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Burkina Faso are chasing the victory they know will give them a place in the quarterfinals of the 2017 African Nations Cup when they face minnows Guinea-Bissau in their final Group A clash in Franceville on Sunday.

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The Burkinabe have played to a pair of 1-1 draws so far against Cameroon and hosts Gabon, but now, on paper at least, have their easiest fixture in the pool and will be favourites to earn a spot in the next round.

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This even as they overcome twin injury blows to key men Jonathan Pitroipa and Jonathan Zongo, who are unable to continue in the tournament.

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Pitroipa’s injury is a major headache for the Burkinabe. He was voted the best player at the 2013 Nations Cup finals in South Africa but a muscle tear has ended his participation as he faces three weeks on the sidelines.

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Zongo ruptured a cruciate ligament and left Gabon to Barcelona for surgery, likely out for up to seven months.

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Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte said it was a major blow but called the injuries “unlucky and part of football” when asked about whether pitch conditions at the tournament were to blame.

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The Burkinabe players have been talking their game up as a “final” and a must-win fixture, even though a draw could be enough to advance if Cameroon beat Gabon in the other pool match.

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The hero of their 1-1 draw with the home side, Préjuce Nakoulma, says his team will not take a cautious approach.

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“All teams still have a chance. The last game we must win,” he said.

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A draw could be enough but will depend on Gabon getting no more than a point against Cameroon, as well as Burkina Faso scoring more goals in a stalemate against Guinea-Bissau.

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At the moment Gabon and Burkina Faso have identical records in terms of points, and goals scored and conceded, while the fixture between them finished 1-1.

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It means the prospect of the drawing of lots looms, as it did in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 when the method was needed to separate Mali and Guinea.

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Guinea-Bissau have entertained at these finals and are still in with a chance of making the quarterfinals if they beat Burkina Faso and Gabon get no more than a point against Cameroon.

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Coach Baciro Cande says his team have done themselves proud so far and that they will fight to the end.

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“We have to work hard against Burkina Faso and I am not really thinking about being knocked out,” he said. “I have told my players we will play to the end and what we want is positive results – we we have learned important lessons on how to defend when you are leading.”

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