Battling Gabon sprang another shock in the African Cup of Nations last night, beating their neighbours and the giants of the continent, Cameroon, 1-0, as the curse of the World Cup qualifiers continued in Angola. The striker Daniel Cousin, who plays for English Premier League side Hull City, scored the winner on 17 minutes and his team, who are playing in their first Cup of Nations for ten years, defended manfully to hold on to their advantage.
Defeat means that Cameroon, four-times winners of the tournament and one of the favourites to lift the trophy, face a vital match against Zambia on Sunday to keep their hopes alive. No team qualified for this summer's World Cup finals have won a game in Angola so far with Cameroon, Algeria and Nigeria losing their opening matches and the Ivory Coast being held to a draw. Victory was only Gabon's second ever in the tournament.
Cameroon, managed by the former Lyon, Glasgow Rangers and Paris St Germain coach Paul Le Guen, are the top ranked team in Africa, have played in five World Cups and boast a host of top-flight players including Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o. Gabon, on the other hand, are ranked 62nd in the world and a quarter-final in 1996 is the only time they have got past the first round. Cameroon did all the early pressing, with Gabon keeper Didier Ovono turning Achille Emana's snap-shot from the right channel on to the post and out for a corner.
But the game was decided when Cousin executed a simple finish past the Espanyol keeper, Carlos Kameni, after the defence got themselves in a mess, allowing a mis-kicked pass from Cedric Moubamba to find its way into the path of Cousin. Cameroon piled forward and dominated the second half but could not get past a valiant Gabon rearguard effort. Gabon almost sealed it when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang smashed the ball against the crossbar in injury time, but Cousin's strike proved enough. Man of the match: Didier Ovono (Gabon)
Meanwhile, the Manchester City striker, Emmanuel Adebayor, yesterday said he does not know when he will return to England. The Togo captain has been given indefinite compassionate leave by the Premier League club following the gun attack on his national team's bus in Angola last week. The team's press officer and assistant manager, as well as their bus driver, were killed in the shooting in the region of Cabinda ahead of the tournament.
Adebayor, 25, has revealed the incident has made him ill and playing football is not on his mind. "I am sweating every day, and every day God makes," he said. "At the moment I can't eat, I am losing weight. It is very difficult for everyone. I will take my time and come back on the pitch at the right time. My boss and my team understand that. That is the most important thing. They know I need time.
"It is difficult because my personal press officer died in my hands, that is the worst image I have had in my life. He passed away in my hands. It is very difficult." It was the second time the striker had addressed a camera in two days and this time he was wearing a shirt from his current club. When he spoke on Tuesday he curiously wore a top sporting the logo of former club Arsenal. * With agencies