Uphill battle for AFCON hosts

2015-01-15 10:41
AFCON 2015
AFCON 2015
Cape Town - Hosts Equatorial Guinea will get the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations underway when they face Congo in the tournament’s opening match on Saturday, 17 January.

Kick-off for this Group A clash at Estadio de Bata is set for 18h00 CAT.

Equatorial Guinea were originally expelled from the 2015 AFCON in the qualifying phase after fielding an ineligible player, but Morocco’s withdrawal as hosts allowed the central-west African nation to step in and pick up the role of hosts at the last minute.

This will be Nzalang Nacional’s (National Thunder) second participation in the Nations Cup. Their debut arrived three years ago when, as co-hosts with Gabon, they reached the quarterfinals of the competition.

The host nation’s side did not enjoy a particularly smooth build-up to the 2015 event. They axed Spanish coach Andoni Goikoetxea late last year and appointed Argentine Esteban Becker with less than two weeks to prepare for this opening match. They were also the last team to submit their squad list to CAF, further underlining their lack of preparedness.

Congo, in contrast, enjoyed a strong qualification campaign under veteran coach Claude Le Roy. They finished second behind South Africa in their preliminary group and helped eliminate reigning AFCON champions Nigeria, famously defeating the Super Eagles 3-2 in Calabar back in September.

‘The Red Devils’ also have a greater pedigree in the Nations Cup, having won the tournament in 1972 in Cameroon. However, they have not been regular qualifiers for the finals in the decades after that triumph and will be looking to re-establish their reputation in 2015.

The teams have met in six previous official international matches and Congo have claimed five wins compared to Equatorial Guinea’s one. This will be their first clash in the Africa Cup of Nations finals. Their most recent match was a friendly in N’Djamena in March 2007 that Congo won 2-1.

Head-to-head, Equatorial Guinea v Congo

Matches played: 6

E Guinea wins: 1

Congo wins: 5

Draws: 0

E Guinea goals: 6

Congo goals: 16

Read more on:    equatorial guinea  |  congo  |  afcon 2015  |  soccer

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