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African Nations Cup finalists Equatorial Guinea – posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com – January 18th, 2012

posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com – January 18th, 2012

African Nations Cup record

Previous appearances in finals: 0

Coach: Unheralded Brazilian Gilson Paulo was parachuted into take over as coach two weeks ago after the departure of Henri Michel, the veteran French coach who accused officials of interfering in his work. Gilson Paulo has worked on the coaching staff at Vasco da Gama and as head coach at Olara, Bangu and Portuguesa in Brazil. It is not certain that he will be the only man pulling the strings in terms of team selection for the co-hosts.

Key players:

Rodolfo Bodipo (Deportivo La Coruna). Age: 34 Position: Forward

The best known player from Equatorial Guinea is now past his prime but will captain the side on their Nations Cup debut. His father is from Equatorial Guinea but his mother Spanish and Bodipo was born in Seville. He played first for Equatorial Guinea at the start of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers and been recalled in the wake of Michel’s departure.

Javier Balbao (Beira Mar). Age: 26 Position: Midfielder

Signed by Real Madrid as a 20-year-old prospect in 2005 but Fabio Capello insisted he be loaned out for experience, spending a season at Racing Santander before returning to Real.

But despite some Champions League appearances he never broke through and was sold for 4-million euro to Benfica in 2008. That move proved a flop and his contract was cancelled late August after which he signed for Beira Mar in the Portuguese top flight, where he has made just four starts this season.

Narcisse Ekanga (TP Mazembe Englebert). Age: 30 Position: Midfielder

Former Cameroon junior international whose qualification for Equatorial Guinea is dubious, reflecting the cavalier manner in which the former Spanish colony has enticed players from elsewhere to play for the national team, by offering them nationality and money. Ekanga is from Cameroon where he played top flight football until 2007 and then transferred to former African champions TP Mazembe Englebert in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

FIFA world ranking Dec. 2011: 150th

Prospects: As co-hosts Equatorial Guinea will be hoping for some return on their investment into two new stadiums and other infrastructure around the tournament, even if they have never before played at this level. But they are the lowest ranked of the 16 competitors and a side in turmoil split into two factions; a large contingent of Spanish-based players, linked to the country through birth or their parents, and the other a group of mercenaries brought in from countries like Brazil, Colombia, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. (Compiled by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town, editing by Justin Palmer.; To comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com; dave.thompson@thomsonreuters.com +44 207 542 7933; Reuters messenger: dave.thompson.reuters.com@reuters.net; Please double click on the newslink for more soccer)

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