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Algeria favourites for an open Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea

Given how late the hosts stepped in it is a triumph that the tournament is going ahead at all – and it may be that the football ends up transcending logistical difficulties
Equatorial Guinea chosen as new Cup of Nations hosts

The still of early afternoon in Malabo was abruptly shattered. A pick-up screeched to a halt at a crossroads, a couple of dozen Malian fans clinging to the back, waving shirts and flags and blowing whistles. It was followed by another and then another and another until finally there were six in the convoy, all swaying dangerously from side to side, horns tooting. Workers on a nearby building site, grinning in bemusement, wandered to the kerb and waved. Spontaneous excitement of this nature, you suspect, is not a common sight in Equatorial Guinea.

The Malians, it turns out, all worked in the capital and were on their way to the Sofitel to await the arrival of their national side, who begin their campaign against Cameroon on Tuesday. Other than that, though, there have been few signs the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts on Saturday with the hosts against Congo, is coming to town. On the bridges over the Hassan II highway, there are a couple of banners featuring Chuku Chuku, the tournament mascot that’s supposed to be a squirrel but looks rather more like a porcupine, and there is a modest Cup of Nations poster at the gate to the main stadium – it is not entirely clear it isn’t left over from 2012 when Equatorial Guinea co-hosted the tournament with Gabon. The biggest indication, the tournament is here, though, has been spiralling hotel prices.

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