LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Guinea Bissau stunned hosts Gabon by holding them to a draw on the opening day of the African Nations Cup finals as they continued to create shocks as the tournament got underway.
A last-gasp goal for the small west African nation, making their finals debut, secured a 1-1 draw on Saturday a week after preparations were disrupted by a players’ strike over money.
Juary’s goal on the stroke of full-time was a hammer blow to the hosts, who face a struggle to stay alive in Group A while one of Africa’s poorest countries kept up their amazing run.
Guinea Bissau’s lack of cash meant they were unable to organise any friendlies after qualifying in September and their players reached their limit last week over unfulfilled promises of the payment of monies outstanding from the campaign.
It was only after a delegation went to see the country’s president that the players were paid on the eve of their departure to the tournament. But there were no ill effects from the fractious preparations as they secured a point with a gutsy showing. “We are very, very happy. Now we have the motivation to go as far as possible,” said coach Baciro Cande.
Cameroon and Burkina Faso also drew 1-1 in the second Group A game at the Stade l’Amitie to leave the section wide open.
Benjamin Moukandjo put Cameroon ahead with a superb 34th minute free kick and they had two more gilt-edged chances to secure the victory. But the Indomitable Lions failed to take them and paid the price as Issoufou Dayo equalised in the 72nd minute.
Gabon, after a modest opening ceremony dominated by rap music, were looking to put their best foot forward in what seemed a modest opening assignment and after a nervy first half went ahead through striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
But allowing a potential victory to slip at the end of the game leaves them needing positive results against Burkina Faso and Cameroon in their remaining group games to have any chance of advancing.
“It’s very difficult to win the first match in these tournaments. For the next match we have to fight tooth and nail,” said Gabon coach Jose Antonio Camacho, who was appointed just 40 days ago.
The tournament continues on Sunday with the first Group B matches in Franceville as Algeria meet Zimbabwe before Senegal take on Tunisia.
Editing by Ken Ferris