Equatorial Guinea’s dream during the current edition of the CAN 2015 seemed endless. Not only did we pass the first qualifier -something that many saw as improbable- but the national team reached fourth place. Thus, Equatorial Guinea enters, for the first time, in the annals of this tournament, the most important in Africa, whose history we review today.
Never has a football event of this magnitude been organized so quickly and yet, Equatorial Guinea has done it. Given the refusal of Morocco -for fear of the Ebola epidemic-, President Obiang, his Government and the institutions made themselves available to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and its president, Issa Hayatou, and agreed to hold it in Equatorial Guinea. The organization, carried out in just two months, marks a milestone in Equatorial Guinea in the holding of the African Cup of Nations (CAN). The second milestone was the classification of the Nzalang Nacional in fourth place.
The beginnings of what is now currently the most important championship of Africa were very precarious. The first CAN was held in 1957, and involved only three countries: Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan; although South Africa was also registered as a founding member, it was disqualified for trying to use only white players. In this first edition, Egypt stood out as the first continental champion after defeating the teams of Sudan in the semifinal, and Ethiopia in the final. In 1962, in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), for the first time there was a qualifying round, which served to determine the four candidates for the cup. In 1963, Ghana hosted the event and took the victory after beating Sudan. Two years later, this same country again became the tournament ¡s champion after defeating Tunisia by 3-0.
Since 1968, the tournament has been held at regular two-year intervals and has gradually increased the number of participating teams. Today almost all the African countries are included, and a pre-classification step is necessary. From 2013, the tournament began to be held in odd years, so as not to coincide with the World Cup.
In the 1970s, six nations won this tournament: Sudan; Congo-Brazzaville; Democratic Republic of Congo; Morocco; Ghana and Nigeria. The 80s went to Nigeria, Egypt and Cameroon, which also had repeated victories.
In the 1992 edition, the number of participants in the final tournament was increased to twelve, divided into four groups of three teams; the top two in each group went on to the quarterfinals. The champion that year was the national team of Ivory Coast, who defeated Ghana.
Two years later, Tunisia -beaten by the Nzalang in this year’s edition- suffered a heartbreaking loss when it was eliminated in the group stage as the host. Nigeria, who months earlier had qualified for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, was triumphant.
Another historic final was in 1996 when, after the eradication of apartheid, South Africa emerged as champion by beating Tunisia by 2-0, also in a championship organized at home.
The 2000 decade belonged to Egypt
In the 2000s, once again there were two very strong national teams: first, Cameroon, who obtained a second-time championship; on the other hand, Egypt, who won three consecutive times, in 2006 (as the host), in 2008 and 2010, setting a new record in the tournament. Cameroon had already obtained victories in the first two editions (1957 and 1959).
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea jointly organized the 2012 edition, marking the second time that two countries host the event. On that occasion, Zambia won its first championship after beating Ivory Coast.
When reviewing the names of the mythical figures of the CAN, we can certainly mention Roger Milla and Joseph Antoine Bell, who visited our country to watch the CAN 2015, and have held a meeting with President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. But also Hossam Hassan, of Egypt, one of the legendary names in international football; the Ivorians Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure; the Liberian George Weah, the Cameroonians Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma; the Malians Mahamadou Diarra, Seydou Keita and Frederic Kanoute, and many others who have made the Cup of Nations shine.
Regarding the ranking of victories, the country that has won the tournament more times has been Egypt, with seven titles. The Pharaohs were also the first champions in 1957. However, internationally, Nigeria and Cameroon are the best representatives of Africa, both in the World Cup appearances, as well as in the Olympics, each country winning a gold medal (1996 and 2000 respectively).
Equatorial Guinea’s Press and Information Office