17 January 2017

Gabon/Burkina Faso: AFCON Hosts Face Top-Class Burkinabe Side

Photo: Confédération Africaine de Football
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his second goal of the Africa Cup of Nations to earn hosts Gabon a point from their match with Burkina Faso.

The reaction of fans and the media in Gabon to their side's opening 1-1 draw with Guinea-Bissau at the 2017 African Nations Cup finals has been one of despair, but fortunes can change quickly and coach Jose Antonio Camacho will expect a reaction from his players in their second Group A clash against Burkina Faso on Wednesday (16h00 GMT).

The Panthers were lambasted for a lacklustre display in front of their own fans, having failed to kill off the West Africans minnows early and then let their lead slip late on.

Defeat to Burkina Faso would likely end their hopes of a quarterfinal place, though in a pool in which both opening matches finished 1-1, qualification for the knockout stage will be decided only in the final round of games.

Camacho took charge of the side only 43 days before the tournament started, giving him litte time to prepare, and he will be much more aware of his side's deficiencies now he has seen them in competitive action.

The general feeling is that they rely too heavily on goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, though the player himself is confident of progression.

"We remain positive. We're at home, it remains a big advantage for us and this is a tournament in which we want to achieve something," he told reporters.

"We made a mistake (against Guinea-Bissau)... The first half was difficult. We began with a little stress, we were a little tense. Unfortunately in the end, we let in a goal that we should not have conceded. It was a mistake that we should not have made...It is now up to us to rectify the problem and win the next game."

But Gabon will be up against a top-class opponent who will offer little quarter. The Burkinabe fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 in their opening game with Cameroon and might have achieved more with better finishing.

They are more of a complete package than Guinea-Bissau and, aside from Gabon's home ground advantage (which can also be a millstone around the neck), would be considered favourites.

Another tick in Burkina Faso's favour is that their coach, Portuguese national Paulo Duarte, led Gabon for 18 months between 2012 and 2013 and knows many of the players.

"I know the Gabon team very well, I trained them," Duarte said. "They are serious candidates to win the tournament, not just because they are hosts.

"But I have a good group of players in my squad, it is very balanced, we have a good equilibrium. The only thing I have to do is manage them."

Duarte says his side will be better on this, their second AFCON outing, saying they failed to follow his plans in the opening draw with Cameroon.

"Unfortunately in the first half my players did not understand the strategy. When we play the next game against Gabon our players will do better."

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