African Cup Of Nations PUMA Team Guide #4: Gabon

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On the crest of a wave after qualifying for the Olympics can home advantage spur Gabon to victory in the African Cup of Nations?

Previous tournament form…

The Black Panthers have qualified for five previous tournaments with a quarter-final appearance in 1996 their best to date. Two years ago they equaled that achievement with a win against Cameroon and a draw with Tunisia but unfortunately they failed to go beyond the group stage after losing 2-1 to Zambia.

How they qualified…

As co-hosts Gabon qualified automatically. With no competitive matches the Panthers have had to rely on a series of friendlies including narrow defeats to Brazil and Ghana.

Star players…

In Didier Ovono, Gabon can lay claim to the best goalkeeper in the tournament, while centre-back Bruno Manga has impressed at French outfit Lorient. But their key player is Eric Mouloungui. The Nice midfielder combines a hammer shot with an eye for goal and tends to save his finest performances for his country.

Watch out for…

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The 22-year-old St Etienne striker is not the first of his clan to play for the Panthers. His father Pierre ‘Yaya’ Aubameyang and brothers Willy and Catilina have also represented their country.

The man in charge...

German tactician Gernot Rohr played and coached in France making 352 appearances for Bordeaux and managing them to the 1996 UEFA Cup Final. The 58-year-old is no stranger to working in Africa managing Tunisian side Étoile Sportive du Sahel between 2008 and 2009.

Style of play…

Rohr has developed more than one way to play with the squad comfortable lining up in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formation. Built on defensive strength, Gabon are a well organized, cohesive and combative unit.

Most likely to…

Do better than in previous tournaments. Gabonese football has been on the rise with the junior team qualifying for the Olympic Games after a shock 1-0 win over Morocco in the final of the African U23 championships. Four players from that team have been drafted into the senior squad creating a blend of youth and experience capable of proving a few people wrong.

Least likely to…

Suffer from a lack support. Gabon’s home advantage should work in their favour with the hosts making it to at least the semi-final stage in 85% of previous tournaments.

Football