Host nation Equatorial Guinea will have pride and one eye on getting their campaign for a top two finish in Group A when they take on Claude Le Roy’s 1972 Africa Cup winners Congo at the Bata Stadium Saturday evening as the 30th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations rolls out.
In their first appearance as co-hosts in 2012, Equatorial Guinea surprised even themselves when they defied all pre-tournament group predictions – stunning Libya’s Mediterranean Knights 1-0 on 21 January 2012 before shocking overwhelming favourites Senegal 2-1 to seal a historic quarter-final berth. They lost their last group match to eventual winners Zambia’s Chipolopolo and losing out on a semis place after a 3-0 loss against Ivory Coast.
Saturday’s opener is the first time Nzalang Nacional and the Red Devils meet in an AFCON final tournament fixture.
Coach Esteban Becker carries the weight of expectation of the country’s nearly 1million people after taking over the job with about three weeks before the opener. He feels no pressure and wants to take it one match after another and go as far as they can.
“My team has had good preparations for AFCON. We have a little time to work together but we have done enough and I think my team is very fast, strong and have quality, technically and tactically. My team has intelligence.”
That comes up against Le Roy’s Red Devils who were impressive in qualifying and sealed their 2015 spot ahead of 2013 champions Nigeria in a group that saw South Africa’s Bafana Bafana come out tops.
Estadio de Bata
Saturday 17th January 2015
KickOff: 19:00 (local time, 18:00 GMT)
Equatorial Guinea Nations Cup finals record
4 matches; two wins, two losses
Best Result: Quarter-Final 2012
AFCON Results (all 2012)
21 Jan Equatorial Guinea 1-0 Libya
Equatorial Guinea 2-1 Senegal
Zambia 1-0 Equatorial Guinea
Ivory Coast 3-0 Equatorial Guinea
Congo Nations Cup finals record
Previous Appearances: 1968: 1st round, 1972: Winner, 1978:1st round, 1992:1/4, 2000:1st round
Best Result: Winners 1972