15 January 2017

Gabon/Guinea Bissau: Panthers in Trouble As Underdog Newbies Force a Draw

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Sébastien Siani of Cameroon celebrates one of the goals that saw his side overcome Guinea-Bissau. Twitter: @kvoostende

Gabon paid the price for not closing out the game when they were held to a 1-1 draw by plucky minnows Guinea-Bissau in their opening match of the 2017 African Nations Cup finals in Libreville on Saturday.

They took the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and at 1-0 had a number of opportunities to get a second and kill off the challenge of their opponents.

But a lack of quality in the final third cost them and when they failed to deal with a free-kick in injury-time, Guinea-Bissau centre-back Juary was able to equalise.

With game to come against stronger opponents in Burkina Faso and Cameroon, this result is a real set-back for the home nation and, potentially, organisers, who know all too well how local interest fades when the hosts bow out early.

Gabon coach Jose Antonio Camacho, who only took charge of the side 43 days before the start of the tournament, admits it is two points lost.

“We had the three points and we lost two,” he told reporters. “But we have the same chance of qualifying as if we had won. We knew that the match would be difficult. There is nothing easy in football.

“We have the next game against Burkina Faso, a team we have to study. The next match will be important."

Camacho says he was not surprised by the fight shown by Guinea-Bissau in the game as they played the biggest match in their history having qualified for the finals tournament for the first time.

“We studied this team. It does not surprise me. They were dangerous in the game. We knew all this, but I think we lost a lot of tackles in the first half. In the second half we started better but we ended up a little tired. It's always difficult to win the first game.”

Guinea-Bissau coach Baciro Candé was understandably delighted and suggested that the result proved his side could be surprise quarterfinalists.

"We are in joy,” he said. “Despite the difficulties of the country, we qualified [for the Nations Cup]. We knew that Gabon was an excellent team. We also know that they have the best player in Africa and Europe [Aubameyang].

“We have our limitations, but we came here with ambition. We will try to go as far as possible. This is a very difficult competition. We only have a few days to rest. [Next opponents] Cameroon will be difficult.”

Next up for Gabon is a game against Burkina Faso on Wednesday, while Guinea-Bissau tackle pool favourites Cameroon.

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