The opening game of the 2012 African Cup of Nations was, by some margin, the most important game ever played in Equatorial Guinea. It prompted a surge of enthusiasm and patriotic pride in Bata, the country's largest city, something that remained undiminished despite kick-off being delayed to accommodate a speech from the president, Obiang Nguema. Buoyed by the atmosphere, the hosts, ranked 151st in the world, beat Libya 1-0 in what was their first ever game in the final stages of the tournament and went on to reach the last eight. 

Côte d'Ivoire, the tournament favourites, began under intense scrutiny on the island of Bioko, but although they performed solidly and went through the tournament without conceding a goal, the Elephants registered only another near-miss. Instead it was Zambia, believing it was their destiny to win the tournament in Libreville, the city off the coast of which 18 of their players were killed in an air crash in 1993, who were victorious as they beat Côte d'Ivoire in a penalty shoot-out in the final.