Gabon wary of threat from debutants Niger

Gabon's footballers
Gabon train in Libreville ahead of Monday's opening Group C clash with Niger

Gabon get their African Nations Cup campaign underway on Monday, aiming to emulate co-hosts Equatorial Guinea by winning their opening match.

Unlike the Equatoguineans, who caused an upset on Saturday, Gabon start as favourites against debutants Niger.

Libreville's Stade de l'Amitie has seen frenzied final preparations ahead of Gabon's moment, with soldiers brought in to clean the nearby roads.

"(Niger) is a good [and] very physical team,'' said Gabon coach Gernot Rohr.

"We respect this team and I think this team comes here to (play) an offensive game," added the German.

Doubts surround the participation of Daniel Cousin in Gabon's line-up, with the former Hull City striker still making his return after a few months' lay-off.

"He didn't play for five months but now he's coming back," Rohr told BBC Sport.

"The first time he started a game for us was last Monday - so he's missing a little physical condition."

Gabon's final warm-up game for the Nations Cup came when playing a second consecutive goalless draw, this time against Sudan, in Franceville a week ago.

Despite being drawn in a tough Group C, there is a growing expectation swirling around the Gabon side, stemming from the country's surprise qualification at under-23 level for the London Olympics.

Niger, meanwhile, have a full squad from which to choose as the Mena prepare to make their Nations Cup debut.

The main protagonists in the pool are Morocco and Tunisia, two past winners who meet in the second match on Monday evening at the newly-built stadium in Libreville.

"The match against Morocco is a big game for us and we need the three points,'' said Tunisia forward Amine Chermiti.

"It's important to win to get the confidence to continue. It's important on a North Africa level, as our opponent is a neighbour against whom we have a long footballing history.''

Tunisia will be without Issam Jemaa however, with the Auxerre striker sidelined for the group stages of the competition with an ankle injury.

The North African rivals have not met at the Nations Cup since the final in 2004, when the Tunisians triumphed on home soil.

Under the guidance of Belgian coach Eric Gerets and with talent sprinkled throughout the side, Morocco are one of the dark horses for the tournament.

"We are not afraid," says midfielder Adel Taarabt. "I think we need to concentrate on our group because we have a super team and so we need to show everyone.''

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