Libyans ready for opening task

Libya hope to write another chapter in a 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations fairytale when they tackle co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the opening fixture at the finals on Saturday.

The Mediterranean Knights qualified for Group A against all odds, playing the Comoros Islands, Mozambique and Zambia in elimination matches. Libya needed a point from a final-round clash in Zambia to snatch one of two places reserved for runners-up and 39-year-old goalkeeper Samir Aboud made several superb saves to ensure a goalless draw.

It will be Libya's third appearance at the biennial African football showcase, showing when they hosted the 1982 edition of the tournament and finished runners-up behind Ghana, and six years ago in Egypt when they made a timid first-round exit.

As Libya arrived in this central African port city of 200,000 people, midfielder Walid El Khatroushi stressed that for the Knights it "is much more than a football tournament". Meanwhile, Serbia-based defender Mohamed El Mounir, one of ten players based outside the oil-rich state, said:  "Just being here represents success for us and now we want to move on and reach the knockout stages for all the people of Libya. I am proud to be part of a united, motivated squad."

Libya are ranked 28 places above Equatorial Guinea and would be favoured to overcome the National Lightning just about anywhere except the recently opened and impressive 35,000-seat Estadio de Bata. 

The first of 32 matches in a Cup co-hosted by Gabon will bring together Brazilian tacticians with former Saudi Arabia coach Paqueta up against Gilson Paulo, who succeeded Frenchman Henri Michel only this month. Paulo has promised to "make history" with a team captained by veteran striker Rodolfo Bodipo.