Africa Cup of Nations – Gabon Preview

 

Playing squad

I’m familiar with all of the Gabon defensive starters. In between the sticks Didier Ovono is highly experienced and will reach 100 caps during this tournament, he’s always a keeper I’ve rated. The backline consists of Troyes’ Jordan Obiang at left back, someone who has enjoyed a good season so far. Bruno Ecuele Manga is a big unit and partnering him centrally will be Laval’s Bruno Appindangoye. Converted midfielder Andre Poko should lineup on the right hand side of defence. This is what I’d call a very physical defence. Perhaps technical attributes would ideally be higher but they should work well together and be pretty strong.

Gabon seem to change their formation a lot so the lineup of their team in midfield and wide areas is questionable. A key man for them in the middle is sure to be Mario Lemina though. The Juventus man is a dynamic player who will hopefully pull the strings for them in this area of the field. The host nation will also hope that Sunderland’s Didier Ndong brings his best form to the African Nations. He has a powerful engine and his physical strength will be important to the team. Upfront, Gabon will hope to get a decent return out of Malick Evouna but the performances of key man Pierre Emerick Aubameyang will determine whether or not they can win the competition. The Dortmund striker has a staggering goalscoring record in recent years and is at the peak of his career right now. He is the best forward in the competition and is more than capable of winning matches on his own. However, he’ll be well covered by the opposition and will need some sort of decent service.

Draw & outlook

Every single host nation this century has reached at least the quarter final stage, with many going much further. However, no host nation has won the event since 2006 (Egypt). Even Equatorial Guinea finished fourth a couple of years ago with such a poor playing squad. This highlights just how much of an advantage being a home nation actually is. Gabon were knocked out on penalties in 2012 when they co-hosted the event, with Aubameyang famously missing the decisive penalty. They’ll hope to go better this time around and the group draw has been relatively kind. Cameroon and Burkina Faso won't be pushovers but with home advantage I make them favourites to top the pile. After that, things get more complicated and the likes of Senegal or Algeria will probably await. If they are to win the competition, then Gabon will probably face three strong opponents in the knockout rounds and I’m not sure they’ll have enough to prevail. However I expect the host nation to have a strong run and they can't be counted out.

Group prediction: 1st

Overall prediction: Semi final elimination

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