Afcon 2015: Equatorial Guinea coach celebrates 'Cinderella story'

Equatorial Guinea celebrate
Equatorial Guinea reached the quarter-finals in 2012

Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker was ecstatic as he led the hosts into the Africa Cup of Nations last eight.

Becker only took charge 11 days before the start of the tournament, which was only handed to the country in November.

A 2-0 win over Gabon took Equatorial Guinea into the quarter-finals and Becker said: "It's magnificent.

"It's a Cinderella story, the poor team beating the rich team on merit, thanks to their sacrifice, their commitment, their pride and their passion."

The side had originally been eliminated from qualifying for the finals after fielding an ineligible player.

They were only reinstated when they replaced Morocco as hosts following the Ebola crisis.

Esteban Becker
Esteban Becker previously managed the Equatorial Guinea women's international team

The side, ranked 118th in Fifa's global list, finished as runners-up to Congo in Group A and Becker added: "This squad only came together 20 days ago in Madrid, then we went to Lisbon and put in place a style of play with optimism.

"We were convinced in every training session that we could go far. To be in the top eight in Africa is an honour for such a small nation."

Of their 23-man squad, 14 were born in Spain, with five players making their debut in a warm-up friendly against Cape Verde in Lisbon.

Former Real Madrid player Javier Balboa was fouled for the penalty which he converted to open the scoring against the Gabonese.

He rejected opposition claims that he deliberately went down to win the spot-kick and said: "I'm delighted for my country, my team and for myself. Today is a great day for the whole of Equatorial Guinea.

"The penalty was the right decision. I did not dive. Yes it changed the game but we scored two goals."

Gabon coach Jorge Costa said: "I don't want to make excuses but Equatorial Guinea would not have scored but for a non-existent penalty.

"We should have been the team in the quarter-finals. It was not a penalty, Balboa dived, and I have been in football long enough to know that. I'm not somebody who worked in a supermarket."

Equatorial Guinea now play the winners of Group B, which features Tunisia, Cape Verde, DR Congo and Zambia, in the first quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.