Africa’s best footballers slug it out as 2017 AFCON kicks off in Gabon
Posted by News Express | 14 January 2017 | 2,082 times
After a long two-year wait, the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations will begin today with fanfare and two crackers at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville, Gabon.
It will be a gathering of Africa’s best footballers who will slug it out for three weeks to see who will be crowned African champions. There will be a lot of focus on defending champions the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Egypt but the hosts Gabon and a few other countries will look to upset the odds and lift the trophy.
Wild Dogs seek to nip Panthers
The tournaments kicks off with the first game between the hosts Gabon and debutants Guinea-Bissau. The Djurtus, (Wild Dogs) as the Guinea-Bissau side are affectionately called, will look to ruffle a few feathers in their maiden appearance at the Nations Cup.
Coached by Baciro Cande, the Djurtus will rely on Pacos de Ferreira and Portugal striker Cicero, who is one among many of the team’s Portugal based contingent.
Gabon were quarterfinalists in 2012 when they co-hosted the tournament with Equatorial Guinea and will hope to go further and claim a first ever continental title on home soil. New coach Jose Antonio Camacho will be the man to lead Gabon this time out as he will count on the talents of Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang, Sunderland’s Didier N’Dong and Mario Lemina of Juventus.
Retooled Indomitable Lions aim to gore trampling Stallions
Then comes the big game. No disrespect to the other two teams but when four-time champions are playing they normally, as in this case, get the nod. Burkina Faso and Cameroon will go head to head in the second match of the tournament. Cameroon have underachieved of late and haven’t won the tournament since 2002 in Mali. A new generation full of youngsters and a sprinkle of experienced legs will look to put the ghosts of years past to rest. Burkina Faso were in the final in 2013 but lost the trophy to Nigeria in a pulsating final where a Sunday Mba solitary strike made the difference between the two sides.
Cameroon was hit with a spate of withdrawals before the final 23-man list was submitted to Caf. Seven players on the initial 35-man provisional squad pulled out citing different reasons. Liverpool defender Joel Matip, West Brom’s Nyom, Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper Andre Onana, Andre Zambo Anguissa from Olympique Marseille, Guy Roland Ndy Assembe of Nancy, Maxime Poundje of Bordeaux and Ibrahim Amadou from Lille all withdrew from the team. It got worse when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting retired from international football. However, that disappointment might turn out to be a blessing as it has given other players an opportunity to show what they can do.
Burkina Faso have no such issues and will be hoping to go one further than they did in 2013 when they reached the final. Now coached by the Portuguese Paulo Jorge Duarte, the Stallions will launch another assault on the AFCON title with almost the same squad from four years ago.
Veteran striker Aristide Bance will once again lead the line for the Etalons who come into the tournament with a blend of youth and experience. Bakary Kone will be the main man in defence while Charles Kabore will provide steel in the middle with the exciting Bertrand Traore pulling the strings to feed Bance and Diawara up front. (Andrew Randa/supersport.com)