MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the second game from the African Cup of Nations on Saturday,
Burkino Faso v Gabon | Saturday 19.00 | Eurosport
I’ve written at length about my love and admiration for the flamboyant Burkino Faso side as well as talking Gabon up as potential group winners. I’ve no doubt that one of these two sides will be topping the pool but will this fixture decide it? I’m not so sure.
Burkino Faso were fantastic in the 2014 finals, demolishing Ethiopia and drawing with Nigeria and Zambia in the group stage before edging their way past Togo and Ghana on their way to the final. Belgian boss Paul Put is the mastermind behind the operation and you can be sure he’ll have the Stallions in tip-top condition.
Burkino will look to play a fast-paced counter-attacking style but it’s their collective spirit, intelligence and organisation that makes them such a tough nut to crack. Over the past few years they’ve lost just nine of 35 games; not bad for a supposed continental rookie.
However, Gabon were one of those sides. Coming away with four points from their two meetings against the Stallions and the Panthers will no doubt fancy their chances on Saturday evening. Under the shrewd tutelage of Jorge Costa, the Panthers were unbeaten in their six qualifiers with W3-D3 to top that group.
There’s a golden generation of young, hungry and exceptionally quick players breaking through into the Gabon national side and they’ve certainly the potential to upset any side that steps in their way. Sharing a border with Equatorial Guinea, we can expect the Panthers to be well supported.
If they’re to get their campaign off to a winning start you can bet your bottom dollar that the electric front-three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Frederic Bulot and Malick Evouna have stolen the headlines. But this being a tournament opener, the two teams knowing each other relatively well and the fact Gabon have actually only won six of their last 26 outings means I’m going to err on the side of caution.
The draw, at 2/1 with Betfair, is the outsider of the three outcomes but it looks the most likely. There are too many inconstancies in goal trends to confidently find a winner but this is most definitely a game to sit back and enjoy it unfolding. It should be a corker and I’m happy to sit on the fence.
Burkino Faso v Gabon – Draw (2/1 Betfair)