Bata: Equatorial Guinea fell short of a dramatic upset in Saturday`s opening match of African Nations Cup finals as a lack of preparation and last-minute change of coach caught up with them.
The hosts, who had just two months to prepare after being catapulted into the 16-team field when the small central African country stepped into take over the organisation of the tournament, let slip a potentially famous win as they gave up a late goal in a 1-1 draw with Congo at the Estadio de Bata.
They had exacerbated the situation by letting the former Spanish international Andoni Goikoetxea depart after two years as coach, moving Argentine-born Esteban Becker across from his job with Equatorial Guinea’s women’s team.
He had just two weeks to work with the team, saying it was just enough time to work on some tactics rather than the fitness that is much needed by a team with many players drawn from minor leagues.
"I had 15 days to prepare with them and there are also a lot of new, young players. It was difficult to plan to try and peak all the preparations. We didn’t have time to work on the physical side," Becker said.
A visibly tiring Equatorial Guinea, who had led from a 17th minute goal from English-based captain Emilio Nsue, allowed Congo to dominate the last 20 minutes of the Group A match and the inevitable equaliser followed three minutes from the end.
It was a heartbreaking reversal for an over-capacity crowd, who jammed the stairwells and aisle of the stands at the 35,000-capacity stadium after many had broken through a gate leading into the stadium.
"We did let it slip at the end, we were meant to win. But we left a great impression out there," insisted Becker. "This is a team that can still has a chance to make some results."
Equatorial Guinea remain in Bata for their next match on Wednesday against Burkina Faso, who were runners-up at the last Nations Cup, but lost their opening game 2-0 to Gabon on Saturday.
Equatorial Guinea took over as Nations Cup hosts from Morocco, striped of the right in October when they asked for a postponement over fears of fans bringing the Ebola virus into their country.