Republic of Congo bus breaks down, leaves team stranded

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) -- Republic of Congo's team bus broke down on the way to the remote town of Ebebiyin on Saturday, the latest problem for the squad at the African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

Tournament organizer the Confederation of African Football confirmed the incident in a brief emailed statement, saying the bus had "a mechanical problem" around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Ebebiyin.

The team was making the three-hour road trip from Bata to Ebebiyin, in the far north-eastern corner of the country, ahead of Sunday's Group A game against Burkina Faso.

CAF said a replacement bus was sent from Ebebiyin to collect the stranded players. Coach Claude Le Roy and other officials remained with the original vehicle while it was fixed.

While Republic of Congo is on course to have its best African Cup in decades, it has also had plenty of drama off the field.

Le Roy had already complained bitterly at the beginning of the tournament about his squad's hotel in Bata, saying it had no running water and dangerously exposed electrical cables.

The French coach also said his team had trouble getting to the stadium in Bata ahead of the opening game against host Equatorial Guinea on Jan. 17. Its bus wasn't given a proper escort and was caught in a traffic jam for over an hour in sweltering heat, and without the air conditioning working, Le Roy said.

Le Roy said local police were laughing at the Congolese players stuck in the gridlock, and the coach criticized CAF for not providing an escort and disrespecting his team.

On Saturday, both the Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso teams were followed by helicopter on their trip to Ebebiyin, CAF said, as they made their way along the winding road surrounded by dense jungle.

CAF denied media reports that the Congolese players were picked up by buses transporting Burkina Faso's team.

Republic of Congo has been one of the surprises of the tournament on its return to the African Cup for the first time in 15 years. Top of the group, it needs just a point against Burkina Faso at Ebebiyin Stadium to qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time since 1992.

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