Having joined FIFA in 1986, Equatorial Guinea did not take part in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifying match until the Korea/Japan 2002 campaign, losing both legs of their first-round tie. They failed to improve on this record in their attempts to reach Germany 2006, when they suffered defeat at the same preliminary stage, although they did manage a 1-0 home win over opponents Togo before losing the away leg 2-0. South Africa 2010 saw the Nzalang Nacional enter at the second-round phase of qualifying, and after starting off their Group 4 fixtures with a morale-boosting win over Sierra Leone, five consecutive losses rid them of any chance to advance to the finals.
The current crop
Since that disappointment, Equatorial Guinea have lost international friendlies to Cape Verde, Mali and Estonia, as well as – after a 14-month interlude during which they played no matches at all – Morocco. A rebuilding period that began in August 2010 saw former France coach Henri Michel invited to take over the reins in December of that year. The veteran brought some impressive victories in friendly competition before deciding to relinquish his position early in 2012. Brazilian Gilson Paulo will be the man tasked with taking the side through the 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations, of which they are co-hosts.
The key players
Paulo will rely on two Spanish-born Equatoguineans, Ivan Zarandona and Javier Balboa, to take charge of matches in the middle of the park. The former, a 30-year-old central midfielder, has already played in two qualifying matches for his country, while the latter, a 26-year-old attacking midfielder who came through Real Madrid’s youth ranks, emerged during the closing stages of the qualifying process for South Africa 2010.