Congo and hosts Equatorial Guinea defied pre-tournament predictions at the African Nations Cup, as both sides qualified for the quarter-finals with victories in their final Group A matches.
Congo required a draw to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament for the first time since 1992, but the Central African nation went one step further as a 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso, in Ebibiyin, sealed top spot in the group.
The win ensured they enter the quarter-final stages unbeaten in the 2015 tournament, with two victories and a draw.
Thievy Bifouma had the best chance of the opening period to ease any nerves among the Congo ranks but fired his shot narrowly off target.
The second-half began with a major scare for Congo and their goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, who saw a clearance from his opposite number Germain Sanou bounce over his head and roll past his post.
Their nerves were eased when Bifouma turned a cross into the Burkina Faso net, but injured himself in the process of scoring, requiring the forward to be substituted.
With their tournament drawing to a close Burkina Faso burst into action in the closing stages, first seeing a goal ruled out by the offside flag before grabbing a leveller with four minutes remaining, through Aristide Bance.
The 2013 beaten finalists could be forgiven for thinking that they would end their campaign with a point, but were only on parity for a minute, before Fabrice Nguessi restored Congo's lead heading his side back in front after Sanou could only parry, with the goal sealing their progression as group winners.
Equatorial Guinea also progressed thanks to a 2-0 victory over Gabon, in Bata, which saw them leapfrog their opponents in the group standings, having claimed two draws and a one win from their matches so far.
The hosts progress is remarkable, having been the lowest ranked team coming into the competition and owing their participation in the tournament to the last minute decision to make them hosts after Morocco withdraw.
Javier Balboa gave them the lead in their decisive clash with Gabon, slotting home a penalty ten minutes into the second-half, after himself being fouled following neat interplay with Fabiani Bosio.
The home crowd sensed that an upset was on the cards and roared their side forward as Gabon failed to assert themselves on proceedings, and were thankful for that their goalkeeper Didier Ovono made several saves to keep his team in the match.
But he was unable to hold a strike from Nsue, leaving 19-year-old Iban to send the fans into raptures as he sealed Equatorial Guinea's progression, firing the rebound into the net in the dying minutes.
"It's a Cinderella story, the poor team beating the rich team on merit, thanks to their sacrifice, their commitment, their pride and their passion," said Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker, who took the role only a week before the tournament began.
Group B is due to draw to a close tomorrow with Tunisia requiring a point against the Democratic Republic of Congo to progress, while Cape Verde face Zambia, with all four teams still in with a chance of a quarter-final place.
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