LUANDA, January 14 – Gabon became the latest underdogs at the Africa Cup of Nations to punch above their weight when they claimed the scalp of continental giants Cameroon with a 1-0 win on Wednesday.Later, in Lubango, 2004 champions Tunisia were unable to capitalise on Cameroon’s slip up when they escaped with a 1-1 draw against Zambia to leave Group D wide open.
Angola 2010 is fast earning a reputation as a tournament of upsets, with Angola squandering a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 draw against Mali, Algeria whipped 3-0 by Malawi, and Ivory Coast held by Burkina Faso.
Egypt, the two-time champions, are the only side to do themselves justice in the opening week with their 3-1 defeat of Nigeria on Tuesday.
On paper Cameroon, offically rated the best side in Africa, should have taken Gabon to the cleaners.
But Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o and his teammates were unable to respond to Gabon’s Hull City striker Daniel Cousin who produced the only goal of the game to go top of Group D.
Veteran Cameroon central defender Rigobert Song became the first man to play in eight Nations Cup tournaments, but he would have surely traded his place in history for a different result.
"We weren’t great," conceded Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen. "But above all we can’t become destabilised, the last two first round games can allow us to qualify."
Eto’o noted a striking parallel to their experience in Ghana in 2008.
"Two years ago we were in the same situation (having lost their opener and then facing Zambia, whom they meet on Sunday, in their second).
The former three time African Footballer of the year added: "Losing today is not a big problem but we have to win our next game against Zambia on Sunday.
"We controlled the match but could not find the net."
"We are very pleased we got a win in the first game. Our system worked well and technically we were very good, " said Gabon coach and former France star Alain Giresse.
"Even if we finish second in this group we will be happy. What we want is to qualify for the quarter-finals," he added.
Tunisia must have fancied their chances of seizing the initiative but they found themselves trailing after 19 minutes when James Chamanga, who plays his club football in China, charged down the centre and found Jacob Mulenga on his right to score.
Tunisia avoided embarrassment when five minutes before the break teenage striker Youssef Msakni tore the Zambian defence apart down the left, cutting the ball back to Zouhaier Dhaouadhi who slammed it into the roof of the net.
Zambia coach Herve Renard reckoned his side had let slip maximum points, especially after Gabon’s win.
"This was two points lost," said the youngest of the five French coaches in the competition.
"We started well but after the goal we didn’t show enough discipline."
His Tunisian counterpart, Faouzi Benzarti commented: "We could have won the game with our second half performance, but the draw is fair."
Renard added: "Gabon put up a magnificent performance against Cameroon. Cameroon lost their first game, but they did the same in 2008 and that didn’t prevent them going all the way to the final."
Thursday sees the second batch of matches in Group A in Luanda, with Angola facing giantkillers Malawi while Mali tackle Algeria.