Equatorial Guinea tweak squad

Malabo - African Nations Cup hosts Equatorial Guinea have dropped several South American imports from their squad for this month's tournament in favour of players with closer connections to the country.

Their 23-man squad, announced by their football federation on Thursday, includes 14 players born in Spain who have a parent from the former colony, which hosts the 16-team continental championship from January 17 to February 8.

The small oil-rich west African country has in recent years topped up its national team with imports from Brazil, Colombia and other African countries, who were given passports and paid to play.

The practice went on with impunity until they were expelled from the African Nations Cup qualifiers in July after being found guilty of using the ineligible Cameroon-born player Thierry Fidieu in their two-legged preliminary round tie against Mauritania in May.

They were restored to the competition in November when they agreed to take over as hosts, stepping in at short notice to replace Morocco, who were stripped of the right to host the finals when they sought a postponement amid fears visiting fans would spread the Ebola virus.

New Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker was appointed on Tuesday and will have less than two weeks to prepare the squad for their opening Group A match against Congo in Bata on January 17.

Thursday's squad includes teenage goalkeeper Aitor Embela, who plays for Malaga's youth team, Ruben Belima from Real Madrid's reserves and Ivan Salvador, a 19-year-old from Valencia B.

Five of the squad made their debut on Wednesday in a warm-up friendly against the Cape Verde Islands in Lisbon.

Full AFCON Squad:

Goalkeepers: Aitor Embela (Malaga), Carlos Mosibe (CA Malabo), Felipe Ovono (Deportivo Mongomo)

Defenders: Igor Engonga (CD Tropezon), Dani Evuy, Diosdado Mbele (both Leones Vegetarianos), Miguel Angel Maye (Akonangui), Rui (Hibernians FC), Sipo (AEK Larnaca),

Midfielders: Juvenal Edjogo (Santa Coloma), Viera Ellong Doualla (The Panthers), Pablo Ganet (UD Sanse), Charly Martin (College Europa), Emilio Nsue (Middlesbrough), Randy (Iraklis), Ivan Zarandono (Rangers FC)

Forwards: Javier Balboa (Estoril), Ruben Belima (Real Madrid B), Ivan Bolado (Pune City), Raul Fabiani (Olimpic Xativa), Kike (Mallorca B), Ruben Dario (Leones Vegetarianos), Ivan Salvador (Valencia B).

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