Football

Fairy-tale debut for Guinea-Bissau

Minnows Guinea-Bissau had an African Nations Cup debut to remember as they held hosts Gabon and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a surprise 1-1 draw in Libreville yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Juary Soares scored a last-minute equaliser to cancel out the opener from Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang at the Stade de l'Amitie in the Group A curtain-raiser.

It is all square in the group after four-time winners Cameroon had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso in the other game yesterday morning.

That means there is still everything to play for, but the final whistle was greeted with jeers from the home support in Libreville, providing a stark contrast with the joy of the Guinea-Bissau players.

For them, just being at the tournament for the first time is a remarkable achievement and the result saw thousands take to the streets of the capital Bissau to celebrate.

"This is a moment of joy for us. Despite our country's difficulties, we managed to qualify," said Baciro Cande, the coach of the team known as the Wild Dogs.

Guinea-Bissau fell behind seven minutes into the second half when Denis Bouanga's low ball to the back post was turned in by Aubameyang for the competition's first goal.

But Gabon then sat back and were punished in the 90th minute as Soares got in front of Bruno Ecuele Manga to head in a Zezinho free-kick.

Said Cande: "We knew Gabon have an excellent team and the best player in Africa and in Europe. We have our limits, but we had ambitions coming here and we will try to go as far as possible."

Meanwhile, Gabon coach Jose Antonio Camacho insisted: "Our chances of qualifying are the same even if we had won."

There have been calls by opponents of Gabon's President Ali Bongo to boycott the tournament amid a social and political crisis in the central African country of 1.8 million people, and the 40,000-capacity ground was not completely full for the opener. - AFP

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