Guinea Bissau against Zambia in their AFCON 2017 qualifier. They will face host Gabon in the opening match today. Photo: www.dailymail.co.zm
Shock qualifiers Guinea-Bissau face hosts Gabon today in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations opener, hoping to continue a Leicester City-like run in the competition.
Traditional underachievers Leicester were the sensational winners of the 2015-2016 English Premier League, giving football minnows across the world belief that nothing is impossible.
The west Africans were dismissed as ‘cannon fodder’ two years ago in an elimination group including former champions Zambia and Congo Brazzaville.
But they finished first with a game to spare after back-to-back victories over Kenya and a thrilling triumph against Zambia in a packed Bissau stadium.
Now, a rusty squad known as the ‘wild dogs’ whose last competitive match was four months ago, must raise their game to an even higher level in their Cup of Nations tournament debut.
“We eliminated former champions Congo and Zambia and can perform even better. The squad will work ceaselessly to achieve good results,” promised coach Baciro Cande.
“My squad comprises 23 proud professional footballers who are thinking only of bringing joy to the people of Guinea-Bissau.
“The best way to achieve that is by winning matches and qualifying for the quarterfinals in our Africa Cup debut.
While virtually all the Guinea-Bissau squad are unknown beyond the borders of the former Portuguese colony, Gabon boast a superstar in striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The 27-year-old Borussia Dortmund goal machine, born in France to a Gabonese father and Spanish mother, has a particular desire to succeed in front of his home crowd.
When Gabon co-hosted the 2012 Cup of Nations with Equatorial Guinea, they were eliminated by Mali in the quarter-finals on penalties.