JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa captain Morgan Gould and coach Pitso Mosimane were red carded in Equatorial Guinea as the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations countdown began badly this weekend.
Centre-back Gould was sent off midway through the second half after receiving a second yellow card for dissent and Mosimane got his marching orders due to a similar offence six minutes from time.
A warm-up match that rarely rose above the mediocre ended 0-0 to complete the disappointment for an expectant crowd in mainland city Bata, who came to witness the official opening of the 40,000-seat Estadio Bata.
African football minnows Equatorial Guinea are co-hosting the biennial Cup of Nations between January 21 and February 12 with central African neighbours Gabon and Bata is one of four match venues.
It was the first match in charge for Equatorial Guinea coach Gilson Paulao, a 62-year-old Brazilian who took charge only this week after veteran African campaigner Henri Michel from France quit.
Most pundits believe the South American faces a ‘mission impossible’ trying to get the Equatoguineans into the quarter-finals, which would require a top-two finish in a group including Libya, Senegal and Zambia.
Nothing that happened against the severely depleted non-qualifiers from South Africa will have changed that opinion with the home team weaving some fancy midfield patterns only to be let down by blunt finishing.
Juvenal Ebjogo of Spanish second-tier club Sabadell was a busy bee in midfield and showed touches of class, but skipper and striker Rodolfo Bodipo spent too much time arguing with opponents and the match officials.
The defence of Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony which has never come close to qualifying for the African football showpiece, were hardly tested bar a good reflex save from Felipe Ovono just before the hour mark.
A positive Paulao can take from a game watched by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his Cameroonian and Chadian counterparts was the threat his red-clad footballers posed at set pieces.
The first corner midway through the opening half saw the aerial power of the home team create a chance that was squandered by a wild shot from inside the penalty area.
Former champions Ivory Coast and Ghana are favourites to win the Cup of Nations while some pundits believe a Senegal squad boasting crack strikers Demba Ba and Moussa Sow could bring the trophy to Dakar for the first time.