The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the main International Association Football Competition in Africa which is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and was first held in 1957.
With the AFCON 2017 fast approaching and countries pitching camp, GNA takes a look at the host Nation Gabon and its 23 man squad to battle for the ultimate, as they share Group A with Burkina Faso, Cameroon and debutants Guinea Bissau.
The Gabon National Football Team, nicknamed Les Panthères (The Panthers) or Les Brésiliens (The Brazilians), have never qualified for the World Cup finals, but have qualified six times for the previous Africa Cup of Nations with the first participation in 1994.
Coach Jose Antonio Camacho having named a strong 23 man squad to be spearheaded by the Dortmund and CAF African player of the year award winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the 14 January – 5 February 2017 tournament, the panthers are expected to make a home advantage count to win the trophy for the first time.
The panthers will be hoping to start on a good note when they take on debutants Guinea Bissau in the Gabonese capital of Libreville at Stade de l’Amitié Sino on 14th January, 2017 where the Group A team will be based.
A team carved around their captain and top scorer Aubameyang with a total of 20 goals for his Country will be hoping to book a place to the next round of the competition when they take on a more physical side from Burkina Faso on 18th January 2017 who were finalist in the 2013 edition with a current FIFA ranking of 50th.
The Gabonese team which boast of a blend of the old and young with a predominantly foreign players will have to count on the experience of their most capped player, goalkeeper Didier Ovono (KV Ostende, Belgium) with 88 caps to calm the young ones when it matters most when the panthers come face to face with former African champions Cameroon on 22nd January 2017.
Coach Jose Antonio Camacho with the duo of Germany-based forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and juventus midfielder Mario Lemina as the biggest names in his squad also has England-based duo, midfielder Didier Ibrahim Ndong (sunderland) and central defender Bruno Ecuele Manga (Cardiff city) to count on when the going gets tough for the team as the football nation with a population of about 1.5 million people with a current FIFA ranking of 110th with their highest and best FIFA ranking of 30th in July 2009 prepare to beat the odds to lift the trophy at stake.
Goalkeepers: Didier Ovono (KV Ostende, Belgium), Yves Stephane Bitseki Moto (CF Mounana), Anthony Mfa Mezui (Unattached)
Defenders: Lloyd Palun (Red Star, France), Andre Biyogho Poko (Kardemir Karabukspor, Turkey), Aaron Appindangoye (Stade Lavallois, France), Franck Perrin Obambou (Stade Mandji), Bruno Ecuélé Manga (Cardiff City, Wales), Yoann Wachter (Sedan, France), Johann Serge Obiang (Troyes, France), Benjamin Ze Ondo (Mosta, Malta)
Midfielders: Junior Serge Martinsson Ngouali (IF Brommapojkarna, Sweden), Levy Clément Madinda (Nastic Tarragona, Spain), Guelor Kanga Kaku (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), Merlin Tandjigora (Meixian Hakka, China), Didier Ibrahim Ndong (Sunderland, England), Samson Mbingui (Raja Casablanca, Morocco), Mario Rene Junior Lemina (Juventus, Italy)
Forwards: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund, England), Malick Evouna (Tianjin Teda, China), Denis Athanase Bouanga (Tours, France), Serge Kevyn Aboue Angoue (Uniao Leiria, Portugal), Cedric Ondo Biyoghe (CF Mounana)
Axel Meyé (Eskisehirspor, Turkey), Johan Lengoualama (Raja Casablanca, Wydad Athletic Club), Donald Nze (AS Pelican)