Gabon and Guinea Bissau had never met in a competitive football match until Saturday’s opening game of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
After a chastising and frustrating afternoon at the Stade de l’Amitié in Libreville, few from host nation Gabon will be looking forward to the next time the west African nations meet.
A dramatic late equalizer earned unfancied Guinea-Bissau a 1-1 draw in what was its first ever game at an international tournament.
Juary Soares was the man to claim the historic goal as he rose high above a tired looking Gabon defence to glance a header beyond goalkeeper Didier Ovono.
The goal sparked wild celebrations and was the least Guinea-Bissau deserved from a Group A fixture that only really came to life after half time.
While Gabon has top level European-based talent such as Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerrick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina of Juventus in its ranks, Guinea-Bissau is made up of players primarily plying their trade in the Portuguese lower leagues.
It is also one of the poorest nations in Africa and was being quoted as a 200-1 long-shot to win the tournament by bookmakers before Saturday’s match kicked off.
Although Aubameyang opened the scoring just after halftime with a close range finish from Denis Bouanga’s cross, the hosts seldom looked the better or more experienced side.
Bounga came close just before Aubameyang broke the deadlock while Lemina headed wide when presented with a glorious chance in the first half.
But that was about as good as it got for Gabon.
Guniea-Bissau could have scored earlier had Frederic Mendy not directed his header straight at Ovono when left unmarked as the game entered its closing stages.
Inevitably, boos rained down at the final whistle as the home crowd made its displeasure known.
There had been fears about ticket sales prior to the tournament, but Saturday’s match was played in front of a colorful, excitable and near capacity crowd.
Group A’s second fixture between Cameroon and Burkina Faso will take place later Saturday in Libreville.