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First AFCON hat-trick in 16 years puts Equatorial Guinea on verge of qualification

Equatorial Guinea’s forward Emilio Nsue celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group A football match between Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpe, Abidjan, on January 18 , 2024. /CFP

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Emilio Nsue netted the first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hat-trick in 16 years to help Equatorial Guinea overcome Guinea-Bissau 4-2 on Thursday and close in on a place in the last 16.

Nsue first found the back of the net in the 21st minute as he pounced on a defensive error to roll the ball past Ouparine Djoco.

Guinea-Bissau upped the heat in quest for an equalizer, and it came in the 37th minute when Franculino Dju’s pressure prompted an Esteban Orozco own goal.

Determined to grab the victory, the Nzalang Nacional retook the lead at the onset of the second half when Josete Miranda fired home following a long goal kick.

Nsue capitalized again on Guinea-Bissau’s sloppy defending to bag his second on 51 minutes before sealing his hat-trick just after the hour mark with an emphatic finish to put the game beyond reach.

Ze Turbo pulled one back deep in added time, although it proved too little to salvage any point for Guinea-Bissau.

Nsue’s hat-trick is the first at Africa’s top football competition since Morocco’s Soufiane Alloudi netted thrice against Namibia in the 2008 edition.

“Scoring three goals has given me a lot of confidence and I hope I can keep scoring and even be the top scorer at this competition,” said Nsue.

“I’m very proud of this performance by the team,” he added. “It was a very good match especially in the second half, although we still need to improve in certain areas.”

On his part, Nzalang Nacional coach Juan Micha hailed his team’s performances as complete, noting that it got their “campaign back on track” following their 1-1 draw against Nigeria in the first match.

A draw against the host nation Cote d’Ivoire in their last group match next week will seal their qualification into the knock-out phase of the continental tournament.