AFCON: A new stadium in the jungle hosts a pair of Group B draws
EBEBIYIN, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — The new stadium carved out of dense jungle was the only real winner Sunday at the African Cup of Nations.
Both Group B matches played at the small venue ended in 1-1 draws, with Congo coming back to hold 2012 champion Zambia and Cape Verde equalizing late against Tunisia.
The games were played in Ebebiyin, a small city in the northeastern corner of Equatorial Guinea near the borders with Cameroon and Gabon. The 5,000-seat stadium was hastily readied for the tournament after the country was awarded hosting rights about two months ago, and it got the job done.
"It's OK. We are not complaining," Zambia coach Honour Janza said. "We are enjoying the atmosphere. I think it reminds us of 2012. So I think we are OK."
The stadium was filled with spectators, but the newly laid turf took a beating as players cut up large chunks with nearly every slide.
The two draws leave all four teams in Group B with one point each.
Cape Verde will take on Congo in the next set of group matches on Thursday, while Tunisia will face Zambia.
Heldon scored the equalizer for Cape Verde from the penalty spot in the 77th minute, shortly after being brought down by Tunisia defender Syam Ben Youssef.
Mohamed Ali Moncer had given Tunisia the lead in the 70th minute. Jamel Saihi set up the score with pass to Ali Maaloul, who then rolled the ball across the front of goal to Moncer.
Despite the draw, both Cape Verde and Tunisia are still favoured to advance to the quarterfinals.
In the opening match, Given Singuluma scored a quick goal for Zambia by taking advantage of an early error by Congo goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.
Congo equalized in the 66th when Yannick Bolasie swept a shot into the top left corner after the ball fell to him on the edge of the area.
Equatorial Guinea has had little time to prepare for the tournament, but so far things are going well.
Two of the four host cities, Malabo and Bata, were used when the country co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Gabon. Ebebiyin and Mongomo, which will stage the two Group C matches on Monday, are the others.
"We knew that (Equatorial) Guinea obviously wasn't ready to host this African Cup of Nations," Congo captain Youssouf Mulumbu said. "I don't want to criticize them. They do their best. If we want to be in better conditions, we need to go past this group stage."