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Merely qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals was a triumph for war-torn Libya, and although they exited the tournament after the group phase, as was expected, they certainly gave a good account of themselves.
In the opening game against co-hosts Equatorial Guinea they looked set to claim an honourable goalless draw, but they were caught by Javier Balboas late goal.
They then held eventual champions Zambia to a 2-2 on a soaked Bata pitch, before going on to pick up their first Nations Cup win in 30 years, and their first on foreign soil, by beating Senegal 2-1.
The North Africans finished third on the group on four points, just two points adrift of quarterfinalists Equatorial Guinea.
Ahmed Saad and Ihaab Boussefi shared the teams four goals at the tournament, netting a brace each against Zambia and Senegal respectively.
Strangely, Libya will be making only their third appearance at an Africa Cup tournament despite their long but erratic association with African football.
And unlikely their Northern African brothers, Libya are the only nation from that region not to have won the Africa Cup.
However, their biggest claim to Africa Cup fame was in 1982 when they finished second as hosts.
They returned 14 years later in Ghana but failed to make it out of Group A that contained Egypt who went on retain the title for a second successive tournament.
Libya collected juts one point from three games and also failed to qualify for 2008 and 2010 tournaments.
The road to the 2012 finals however was a different case under Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta and were unbeaten in all six Group C games despite finishing second behind pool winners Zambia.
They started off with a modest scoreless draw away to Mozambique on September 5, 2010 before toppling Zambia from the top of Group C with a 1-0 win in Tripoli on October 10.
Not many people gave them a chance when January came as a bloody period of civil unrest ensured in Libya.
Libya were forced to play their second home game away in Bamako, Mali where they beat Comoros 3-0 as battles raged in and outside Tripoli and the NTC took control of Benghazi.
Libya limped into Comoros on June 4 to force a 1-1 draw that handed the bottom placed side their first point in Africa Cup qualifiers.
Paqueta's sides perseverance in the midst of adversity was even stronger when they hosted Mozambique away in Cairo in their penultimate Group C game on September 3.
Libya, with a side comprising mostly of Benghazi based players, shocked Mozambique to win 2-0 to keep alive what was now looking like a fairy tale run.
A scoreless draw away to leaders Zambia in their final game in Chingola earned them a justified best runner-up place from the qualifiers.
Players to look out for?
Libya's outstanding goalkeeper Samir Aboud of Tripoli giants Al Ittihad will be their key player in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
For those in doubt, the 39-year old Aboud conceded just one goal in all six Group C games.
Also, lookout for classy midfielder Djamal Mahamat of Sporting Braga in Portugal and the promising 24-year-old midfielder Ibrahim al Hassy of Al Nasr.
Meanwhile, Libya's healing process after 10 months of strife will be given a boost should the team make it out of the group stages for the first time in 31 years.
|2012 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS TEAM RECORD|
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