Hosts Equatorial Guinea advanced to the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations for only the second time in history after beating Gabon 2-0 in the last round of Group A matches.
Esteban Becker’s men had the full support of the majority of the crowd at Estadio de Bata who sang and danced from the off and were handsomely rewarded with a classy performance from the hosts.
Knowing only a win would see them avoid the unwanted record of being the first host nation to fail to qualify to the next round in 18 years, the Nzalang Nacional came off the blocks quicker than their more fancied opponents. They created the first two chances of the game before Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spanned his team’s first real threat at goal, his header drawing a fine save from Felipe Ovono.
With the first half thin on chances, Gabon came out flying in the second half and created two early chances with Ovono called into action in both occasions. However, it was the hosts who took the lead against the run of play, Javier Balboa converting a penalty after Lloyd Palun was adjudged to have fouled him in the box.
Iban Salvador confirmed the hosts’ entry into the next round with a second goal four minutes before the final whistle.
Congo topped the group after beating 2013 finalists Burkina Faso 2-1. After a goalless first half, Thievy Bifouma opened the scoring for Claude Le Roy’s side 6 minutes into the second interval. The Burkinabe needed victory to advance and Aristide Bance gave them a fighting chance with an 86th minute equalizer but N’Guessi Ondama ensured the Congolese wouldn’t be denied restoring their lead immediately after the restart.
This is the first time Congo have progressed past the group stage since the 1992 Africa Cup on Nations edition.
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