Gabon arrive at Equatorial Guinea for AFCoN 2015 relatively under the radar. Not considered to be one of the elite African teams at the tournament they have been tipped by many to perhaps make it out of the group, but not to make too many waves. This may suit Jorge Costa, the coach of Gabon and captain of the famous treble and Champions League winning Porto team under Jose Mourinho. With little expectation, Gabon may prove to be somewhat of a surprise package at the cup, with the draw being relatively kind to them, pitting them in Group A against the hosts Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso and Congo.
Heading into the tournament with an unbeaten qualification campaign behind them, morale in the Gabonese camp will be high, particularly as star man and world class striker Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang continues to score goals at all levels, even domestically for a hugely under-performing Borussia Dortmund team. As Gabon’s joint top scorer in qualification and a key performer with a 3 goal haul in AFCoN 2012 to take the Panthers to the Quarter-Finals he will be seen as their main threat. Aubayemang will also have a point to prove on the world stage, having painfully been the only player to miss their spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out loss to Mali in Libreville 3 years ago. As joint hosts that year they had been swept along with a wave of national fervour and optimism and had been tipped to kick on after the heart-breaking quarter-final exit. But it was not to be and in fact the Gabonese have stalled since the, disappointingly failing to qualify for either the AFCon in South Africa 2013 or the Brazil World Cup the following year. But the ship seems to have been steadied by Jorge Costa, with the unbeaten run in qualifying also producing three clean-sheets they will base their play on sound defence. Another young squad, they will look to Bordeaux starlet Andre Poko to provide for Aubeyameng from midfield.
Good times ahead for Les Pantheres! I think the quality in Aubayemang provide in front of goal will see the under-rated Gabonese through safely from Group A. In fact I see them topping the group enabling them a favourable Quarter-Final fixture (possibly against Zambia, but more likely for me against Tunisia)where again I see them being victorious. So a semi-final berth predicted for Gabon, will perhaps be seen by many as a bit of a surprise but the Africa Cup of Nations never fails to provide a plethora of those every two years! Roll on the semi-finals and perhaps beyond for the Panthers!