Spanish fourth division fullback David Alvarez scored in stoppage time to send Equatorial Guinea’s team of unknown foreign-born players into the African Nations Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over eliminated Senegal on Wednesday.
Alvarez’s long-range effort for the co-hosts completed an extraordinary day in the competition which began with a tropical downpour that delayed the start of a double bill in Bata by more than one hour.
Senegal’s much-vaunted team, mostly made up of players from clubs in the major European leagues, missed more than a dozen clearcut openings as they became the first side to be knocked out and can expect a hostile reception on their return to Dakar.
Zambia and Libya began the afternoon with a 2-2 draw in appalling conditions, both sides agreeing the match should not have been played.
Groundsmen used brooms to try to clear away the water before more sophisticated equipment appeared on the field.
The fact afternoon downpours are common in Bata raises questions about the wisdom of staging back-to-back evening matches in the stadium.
“It was shameful for African football to see them using brooms,” said former Ghana player Abedi Pele, commentating for a South African network.
To add insult to injury, the stadium was almost empty for the first game before quickly filling up for Equatorial Guinea’s match.
Ranked 151st in the world and playing in the tournament for the first time, Equatorial Guinea’s players received one million dollars between them from the government for winning their Group A opener against Libya.
Once again, the co-hosts began the match with 11 foreign-born players in their lineup, unheard of in international competition.
The team included five players born in Spain, two from Ivory Coast and one each from Cameroon, Brazil and Cape Verde.
Equatorial Guinea failed to muster a shot in the first half as Senegal, surprisingly beaten 2-1 by Zambia in their opener, made it look embarrassingly easy yet failed to score.
The second half was a complete turnaround as Spanish second division player Iban Iyanga, better known by his footballing name Randy, headed home the first goal of the game just after the hour.
Senegal finally equalised in the 89th minute through Lille’s Moussa Sow and had two clear chances to win the game in a dramatic finale.
Instead Alvarez, known as Kily and who plays with Spain’s Langreo, hit a spectacular swerving drive from outside the penalty box to ensure one of Africa’s smallest countries will play in next week’s quarter-finals.
The pitch had improved considerably for the second match, having been almost unplayable for the opener.
Libya and Zambia players often had to use beach football tactics, flicking the ball up to get it out of a pool of water before trying to pass it.
Ahmed Saad scored at the start of each half for the north Africans, Zambia hitting back first through Emmanuel Mayuka – the Young Boys Berne forward scoring for the second match in a row – and then Chris Katongo.
Zambia have four points and need a draw against Equatorial Guinea in their next match to qualify while Libya have one.
“The players could have been badly injured. We should not have started,” Libya’s Djamal Abdallah told Reuters.
Katongo said: “The conditions were really bad and very difficult to play in. We had to resort to ping-pong football and that is not our style.”
Ivory Coast face neighbours Burkina Faso in Group B, preceded by Angola against Sudan, as the competition continues in Malabo on Thursday.Reuters
- Zambia striker Chamanga recovers to make Cup squad (indepthafrica.com)