MALABO — With the opening-match jitters behind them, all four teams in Group B of the African Cup of Nations are looking to set themselves apart from the rest.
Tunisia and Cape Verde, considered to be the strongest teams in the group, made sure that neither managed to gain an edge in the group standings with a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
"The first game is always difficult," said Tunisia coach George Leekens, whose team took a late lead before allowing an even later equalizer. "Everyone is a favorite at this moment. We will concentrate on the next games."
Tunisia's next chance to earn three points will be against 2012 African Cup champion Zambia on Thursday at the new stadium in Ebebiyin. The Zambians also allowed a second-half equalizer in their 1-1 draw with Congo on Sunday.
Although Zambia won the title only three years ago, the team has brought in several new players. And the coach who led them to victory, Herve Renard, is in charge of Ivory Coast.
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But an opening draw, coming after Given Singuluma gave Zambia the lead in only the second minute, was a positive start.
"The most important thing is we did not lose the game," Zambia coach Honour Janza said. "The first game is full of nerves, and we have learned one or two things. . We will use it as a steppingstone for the other matches."
Both group games will be at the same stadium in Ebebiyin, a small city in the northeastern corner of Equatorial Guinea near the borders with Cameroon and Gabon. The 5,000-seat stadium, carved out of dense jungle, was hastily readied for the tournament, and the recently laid turf took a beating on Sunday.
"They do their best," Congo captain Youssouf Mulumbu said of the country's preparations for the tournament. "If we want to be in better conditions, we need to go past this group stage."
Cape Verde, which reached the quarterfinals two years ago, will take on Congo in the second match.
On Sunday, Cape Verde converted a 77th-minute penalty to equalize against Tunisia. Keeping his team focused for the full 90 minutes against Congo will be a priority for Cape Verde coach Rui Aguas this time.
"We were better in the first half, and had good possession of the ball," Aguas said. "We lost some concentration and Tunisia scored."
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