24.01.2015 08:59 h

'Amazing ants' eye Cup of Nations progress

Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker hopes his 'amazing ants' can defeat Gabon Sunday and make a fairy-tale entry to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Maximum points at Estadio de Bata for the team ranked only 36 in Africa will take them through from Group A whatever the result between Congo Brazzaville and Burkina Faso.

The Congolese 'Red Devils' and the Burkinabe 'Stallions' kick off at the same time in the remote eastern town of Ebebiyin.

While draws will suffice for leaders Congo and the second-place Gabonese 'Panthers', it is win or bust for third-place Equatorial Guinea.

Victory for bottom team Burkina Faso, runners-up to Nigeria in the previous tournament, would ensure survival if Gabon or Equatorial Guinea collect maximum points.

But if the Bata game is drawn, the 'Stallions' must triumph by at least two goals to stay in contention for the biggest African Football Confederation (CAF) prize.

Argentine Becker, who succeeded sacked Spaniard Andoni Goikoetxea just 11 days before the Cup of Nations began last weekend, hailed his squad for forcing a goalless midweek draw with Burkina Faso.

"The Burkinabe had so many players from top-flight European leagues. We were like ants compared to them -- amazing ants," he said.

"I am so proud of this squad, who want to defend the honour of the nation.

"They are mainly young and all are hungry for success. Many were born in Spain, but have Equatoguinean parents or grandparents."

Equatorial Guinea have previously been accused of importing players from Brazil, Colombia and African countries, giving them passports and paying them to play.

Using ineligible Cameroon-born Thierry Fidjeu led to the disqualification of the 'National Thunder' from the 2015 qualifiers.

But they got a second chance after becoming last-minute hosts when Morocco were kicked out because they wanted the tournament postponed over Ebola virus fears.

The epidemic has ravaged three west African countries, with most of the 8,626 deaths by last Sunday coming in Guinea, who are competing at the Cup of Nations, Liberia and Sierra Leone,

Poor finishing has troubled all four Group A sides with just five goals from four games -- a meagre average of 1.25 per game.

Burkina Faso have been particularly wasteful with Belgian coach Paul Put blaming a lack of confidence.

"We play very well, create many chance, but cannot find the net. It is painful watching so many opportunities wasted," he admitted.

Congo coach Claude le Roy is thrilled at the prospect of a seventh knockout-stage appearance from eight attempts with five countries.

"I love working with this young squad. You can see there is a bright future for them. Our dream is to reach the quarter-finals at least."