Sunday, January 4, 2015 9:11 am
Nigeria’s out-of-favour coach, Stephen Keshi, is among a few coaches being linked with Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea, which do not have a coach 13 days before facing Congo Brazzaville in the tournament opener.
New football federation president Andres Jorge Mbomio fired Spanish coach Andoni Goikoetxea on December 31 for not accompanying the national squad to a camp in Portugal.
However, poor recent results also played a role in the shock move with the Nzalang Nacional (National Thunder) disappointing at home and abroad.
Hosts Equatorial Guinea finished only fourth in a six-team regional championship and slumped 2-0 to Portuguese fourth-tier club Vilafranquense in a Cup of Nations warm-up.
There has been media speculation that Stephen Keshi who guided Nigeria to the 2013 African title, will take over amid unconfirmed reports that he visited the capital Malabo last weekend.
Milovan Rajevac, the Serb mastermind behind Ghana reaching the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals in South Africa, has also been mentioned as a possible replacement.
Argentine Esteban Becker Churukian, who coached Equatorial Guinea to 2012 African women’s championship glory, is another name linked to the post.
But as the January 17 kick-off draws near, unknown former Goikoetxea assistant Aniceto Ebiaca Mohete is holding the reins in Portugal.
Equatorial Guinea are alone among the 16 contenders in not naming a provisional or final squad with the January 7 deadline for final 23-player lists looming.
This will be the second appearance of the tiny, oil-rich central African state at the African football showpiece and they also made a late coaching change in 2012 when co-hosts with Gabon.
Veteran Frenchman Henri Michel quit over alleged interference by officials in squad selection and Brazilian Gilson Paulo was given 20 days to prepare the squad.
The South American exceeded expectations by plotting victories over Libya and Senegal that secured a place in the quarter-finals, where they fell 3-0 to eventual runners-up Ivory Coast.
Goikoetxea, branded the ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ because of his ultra-aggressive style of defending for Spain, took over a year later with limited success.
Just days before being sacked, he got the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ from the then head of Equatoguinean football.
“We cannot replace a coach within one month of the Cup of Nations,” Domingo Mituy Edjang told the African Football Confederation (CAF) website.
Equatorial Guinea were disqualified from this Cup of Nations at the qualifying stage for fielding ineligible Cameroon-born striker Thierry Fidjeu.
But when 2015 hosts Morocco were dumped for refusing to host the tournament between January 17 and February 8 because of Ebola fears, Equatorial Guinea came to the rescue.
The Ebola epidemic last year claimed 7,890 lives — almost all in west African countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — according to the World Health Organization.
Guinea have qualified for the biennial tournament and play former champions Cameroon and Ivory Coast and Mali in Malabo-based Group D.
Gabon coach Jorge Costa has replaced unavailable Marseille midfielder Mario Lemina with Bonaventure Sokambi ahead of Group A fixtures against Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea.