BATA, Equatorial Guinea, Jan 20, 2012 (AFP) -Libya coach Marcos Paqueta considers it a compliment to his team . . .[restrict]that 2012 Africa Cup of Nations rivals Equatorial Guinea have been offered one million dollars to beat them.
The Group A teams clash on Saturday at the 35,000-seat Estadio de Bata in the opening match of the three-week tournament, with the co-hosts promised a huge cash ‘bait’ to triumph plus $20,000 for every goal they score.
“Equatorial Guinea obviously consider us a strong side as they would not offer so much cash to beat a weak team,” Brazilian Paqueta said in this port city.
“This is a great motivation for us — it proves that we have earned respect. I feel our opponents will play to win and that suits us,” said the man behind the fairytale qualification of the Mediterranean Knights.
The team risked their lives travelling out of the country by road last year to play qualifiers while civil war raged in the oil-rich country beween pro- and anti-Moamer Kadhafi forces.
Equatorial Guinea have experienced turbulence of a different kind in the build-up to the biennial African football showcase, with French coach Henri Michel quitting a month before the kick-off because of “interference”.
Replacement Gilson Paulao from Brazil was given 18 days to satisfy the wishes of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema that the co-hosts “display attractive football, sporting values and win the cup”.
Senegal, who face Zambia late on Saturday in the other opening-day fixture, got celebrity treatment when they arrived in this mainland city and former capital of a central African nation rich in oil and gas reserves.
Star strikers Demba Ba of Newcastle United and 2011 African Footballer of the Year top-five finisher Moussa Sow of Lille were greeted by dozens of jubilant Teranga Lions supporters.
But the loudest applause outside the team hotel was reserved for team manager Ferdinand Coly, part of the 2002 national squad that reached the Cup of Nations final and the World Cup quarter-finals.
Zambia have switched hotels in Bata after officials said the original choice was “unacceptable”, with complaints including a the lack of running water at times on Wednesday and Thursday.
Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal and Zambia face each other once over nine days in a mini-league with the group winners and runners-up advancing to the last eight of a tournament that Gabon are co-hosting.