Congos collide in Africa Cup of Nations

By Samm Audu ,AFP

BATA, Equatorial Guinea — Hosts Equatorial Guinea are hoping the decision to relocate Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal against Tunisia to Bata gives them the edge over the Carthage Eagles. The Nzalang Nacional were initially due to tackle Tunisia in Ebebiyin, more than 200 kilometers by road inland from Bata, before tournament organizers moved it to the port city, citing concerns over the pitch. However, there is little doubt that the tiny 5,000-seat stadium in Ebebiyin would have been overrun had the game gone ahead there rather than in the 35,000-capacity Estadio de Bata. The red-clad local fans will be eager to see Equatorial Guinea make history by reaching the last four for the first time after they were trounced 3-0 by the Ivory Coast in Malabo at the same stage of the competition three years ago. And Tunisia coach Georges Leekens knows that the noisy Equatorial Guinea support will create an intimidating atmosphere for his side on Saturday. ��It will be difficult for us especially with their fans behind them, but I am positive in all circumstances,�� said the Belgian. ��They have a balanced team and are so fast in attack. They have posted a fantastic performance beyond most expectations.�� Nzalang Nacional have yet to lose in Bata and their current side have exceeded expectations after a chaotic build-up that included the appointment of a new coach, Esteban Becker, 10 days before their first match against Congo Brazzaville, as well as a clear-out of naturalized South American players. ��We now have a side made up 100 percent of players from Equatorial Guinea who are willing to defend the colors of their country,�� said Argentine coach Becker. Goalkeeper Felipe Ovono, from semi-professional local side DVO Mongomo has impressed in the home team’s splendid run, particularly against neighbors Gabon in a decisive final group game where he pulled off several crucial saves. Defender Diosdado Mbele has served out a one-match suspension and could return to the starting line-up in place of Estonia-based Daniel Evuy, while the towering Raul Fabiani Bosio could start again up front. The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia were champions on home soil in 2004, but they have not gone past the quarterfinals since. Skipper Yassine Chikaoui has shone at this tournament playing alongside the dangerous Esperance striker Ahmed Akaichi, while Leekens has stuck with a defense led by experienced Etoile du Sahel goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouti and Monaco ace Aymen Abdennour.