By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Panthers of Gabon and Burkina Faso do battle this Sunday, January 23 at the Limbe Omnisports Stadium in the first game of the knockout phase of the Africa Cup of Nations, in doing so will be playing their first knockout football since 2012.
Gabon made it out of Group C which contained favourites Morocco and Ghana. While Morocco progressed, Ghana failed and the second position in that Group was eventually snapped up by Gabon who qualified with 5 points (1W and 2D).
Speaking in a press conference this Saturday, January 22, at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium ahead of the crunch encounter, Coach Patrice Neveu of Gabon said: “We have achieved something at this point but we want more as we can go further. We know we have our people behind us and we want to go beyond the round of 16 into the quarterfinal.”
“Mentally the players have demonstrated some robustness and I believe they are ready for the encounter against Burkina Faso.”
Gabon began their group stage campaign with a 1-0 win over Comoros. Allevinah left it late at 88 minutes to equalize for Gabon as they went on to hold Ghana 1-1. The never say die attitude showed again at the last group game to hold Morocco to a 2-2 draw.
Burkina Faso and Gabon will be meeting each other again at the Africa Cup of Nations after doing so back in 2015 and 2017. But this encounter will be the first time that the two sides will face each other beyond the group stages.
Even though Gabon will be facing Burkina Faso without their star players in Lemina and Aubameyang, Coach Patrice Neveu believes that this will instead be an opportunity for the other players to showcase their skills and that is why they were selected and are part of the team.
“We know we didn’t play well in our previous games and we know how good our opponents are. The key for the match will be in the details. We are ready for any eventualities. I may use the 4-2-3-1 system but we will only find out on the pitch which one I prefer to use,” Coach Neveu, who is featuring for the second time at the Africa Cup of Nations added.
Gabon has unfortunately recorded some four positive cases of COVID but Coach Neveu says he expects another test to be conducted for clarity. Some players and staff are amongst the positive cases. Gabon will, however, be welcoming David Sambissa who is now COVID free.
“We are focused on the encounter against Burkina Faso and we will do our best to win the match,” Alex Moucketou-Moussounda said.