No-hoper co-host Guinea on verge of glory at Nations Cup

No-hoper co-host Guinea on verge of glory at Nations Cup

BATA, Equatorial Guinea - Agence France-Presse
No-hoper co-host Guinea on verge of glory at Nations Cup

Supporters of the Senegalese national football team cheer in the stands during a training session yesterday on the eve of their match against Equatorial Guinea. AFP photo

Equatorial Guinea is on the verge of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals despite being 125/1 no-hoper just three days ago.

Victory over stunned Senegal tonight before an expected 35,000 sell-out crowd at the Estadio de Bata and a win or draw for Zambia against Libya in the first half of a double-header would give the co-host a last-eight place.

The unexpected scenario arises because former Real Madrid midfielder Javier Balboa scored three minutes from full-time to give a country ranked 41 on the continent a 1-0 victory over Libya.

Zambia shocked Senegal 2-1 in a match that finished after midnight at the same venue, leaving third favorite Teranga Lions to tend deep wounds while coach Amara Traore rethinks his Group A strategy.

Equatorial Guinea has not sailed smoothly into its first Cup of Nations with Brazilian coach Gilson Paulo taking over less than three weeks before the kick-off after Frenchman Henri Michel quit citing “interference.” Naturalized goalkeeper Danilo from Brazil, defenders Lawrence Doe from Liberia and Fousseny Kamisoko from Ivory Coast and midfielder Thierry Fidjeu from Cameroon had to endure “mercenary” taunts from sections of the media.

And an ankle injury sustained in a warm-up against South Africa prevented captain and striker Rodolfo Bodipo starting against the Libyans, although he came on as a late substitute.

Stand-in skipper Juvenal Edjogo believes the opening-match victory can inspire the National Lightning to more success in a competition where every co-host has made the knockout stage since Tunisia flopped 18 years ago. “It was so important for us to begin the competition with a win and the future is looking bright,” said the midfielder.