By Fred Kaweesi and agencies
Nations Cup qualifier
Uganda v E.Guinea
A majority of Cranes faithful might be aware that Cranes will confront Equatorial Guinea in their next two-legged preliminary Nations Cup qualifying fixtures.
And out of curiosity, some might discover and probably relax after learning that Cranes’ next opponents are ranked a lowly 113th in the FIFA world rankings.
But it will be extremely disastrous for anyone to read so much into such statistics considering Cranes’ current shape and Equatorial Guinea’s progress in the last one year.
The Nzalang Nacional - which translates as ‘The National Lightning’ — have only competed at the Nations Cup once and that was as hosts in 2012.
However, the tiny central African state, whose population is 700,000, has done enough to raise its profile on the African, and later on world stage.
Their women’s national team is one of the strongest in Africa and won the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
Their men’s team, however, still faces a far steeper struggle but is fast improving.
In 2011, Equatorial Guinea was ranked 165 in the world and a lowly 44th in Africa.
But in three years, this Central African outfit find themselves just 27 places behind Uganda and 31 in Africa, thanks in large part to unrelenting support from Equatorial Guinea President Obiang Nguema.
“We have the same human qualities as everyone else. The women have won the Africa Cup of Nations, so why shouldn’t our men,” Ngueam once told BBC.
Massa heads the ball against Madagascar. PHOTO: Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Enough money to spend
This explains why the government was ready to spend on hosting the 2012 Nations Cup tournament and why Nguema was willing to spend billions on hosting World Champions Spain for a high-profile international friendly.
Nguema’s son Teodorin Obiang manages the country’s finances and has shown willingness to spearhead the team’s road to the 2015 Nations Cup tournament.
According to an internet blog by Sean Jacobs, a Spanish publication El Mundo once reported that Equatorial Guinea’s only TV station (owned by Teodorin) announced he had told the head of the national football federation that he would offer a bonus of $6.7m (Sh17b) to the national team if they beat Spain.
He also once pledged 751,265 euros (sh2b)to the team if they beat Libya in their first Nations Cup match in 2012. The government then promised an extra incentive of $1m (sh2b) as a winning bonus to share if they beat the Libyans.
That was besides the $20,000 (sh50m) for every goal they managed to score during the game.
So, motivation has never been an issue.
The country’s football association has decided to parade Brazilian-born players to spearhead the football revolution in the country.
Guinea’s Brazilian coach Paulo Gilson has selected a number of naturalised players in his squad - Danilo (Brazil), Lawrence Doe (Liberia), Narcisse Ekanga (Cameroon) and Ben Konate (Ivory Coast) among his lead stars.
So if Cranes are to negotiate their way to the group stages, they will need to carry a huge goal advantage into the return leg as the game in Guinea will be no game for the fainthearted.
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Equatorial Guinea have nine Brazilians