Equatorial Guinea captain emerging as unlikely hero at Africa Cup with 5 goals


Emilio Nsue, a 34-year-old right back for a third-division team in Spain, is emerging as one of the unlikely heroes of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Equatorial Guinea captain already has five goals, more than any other player, and has led his team into the knockout stage as the unbeaten winner of a tough group including Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau.

It’s only the fourth time Equatorial Guinea, a small country on the west coast of Africa, is participating in the Africa Cup.

“We don’t even believe it. This for us is history for our country, for our people,” said Nsue, who plays as a forward for the national team. “It’s a dream, a big dream.”

On Monday, Nsue scored twice as Equatorial Guinea upset Ivory Coast 4-0 and left the host nation on the brink of elimination.

“Sometimes this happens in football. … We shot the ball four or five times, we scored four. So, it’s not a real game,” Nsue said. “They tried their best. We tried our best. But we showed once again that as a group we’re very strong. We fight for each other. We help each other. We don’t have any superstar. But as a team, we are one of the strongest in Africa.”

In the previous game, Nsue scored a hat trick in a 4-2 win against Guinea-Bissau. It was the first hat trick at the Africa Cup in 16 years and Nsue became the oldest player ever to do so.

Nsue’s five goals are the most by any player in the group stage since 1970, when Laurent Pokou scored seven in Sudan. The official match ball for this Africa Cup is named “Pokou” in the former Ivory Coast forward’s honor.

The ball for a future tournament may very well be named “Nsue” in honor of the previously little-known captain of the National Thunder, as the Equatoguinean team is known.

The Spanish-born Nsue plays for Club de Fútbol Intercity in Alicante, Spain, where the team competes at third-tier level. A strong, physical player, he usually plays at right back, though can also play on the wing.

He has played for many clubs since coming through the youth setup of hometown club Mallorca, including Real Sociedad in Spain, Middlesbrough and Birmingham in England, APOEL (twice) and Apollon Limassol in Cyprus, and Tuzla City in Bosnia. He joined Intercity in 2022.

Nsue began his career further up the field and was always attack-minded, even when asked to play in defense. He played at youth level for Spain before switching to the country of his father in 2013.

He puts Equatorial Guinea’s success down to the tight-knit group forged by Juan Michá, who was the assistant coach and guided the country’s youth teams before taking over as coach of the seniors.

“We are brothers, seven, eight years playing together. We know each other very well,” Nsue told The Associated Press. “We are friends and I think when we go to the pitch, you can feel it. We run for each other. We are a family. We try to help each other. We give positive vibes. I think this is the key.”

Nsue said he “will fight” to finish as the tournament top-scorer, but he’s putting the team’s success above his own.

“In football, you know, sometimes they stop you, sometimes not,” Nsue said. “Now I am in a very good moment, just to keep trying, to keep going. But, for me, the most important thing is that my national team keep winning games and all our people are proud of us.

“We made history and we will try to keep making history.”-Africanews


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