Afcon 2017: Hosts Gabon face Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau in Group A

Stade de l'Amitie
Group A matches will take place at the Stade de l'Amitie in the capital, Libreville

GABON:

Nickname: Panthers

Nations Cup High Point: (Quarter-finalists 1996, 2012)

How they qualified: Qualified as hosts. A solution was found for the lack of competitive matches by placing them with the three teams in Group I and categorising their matches as friendlies.

Team Guide: Gabon are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament according to Fifa (111).

The Nations Cup has been won 11 times - out of 31 - by the hosts and the Panthers will naturally have to cope with enormous expectation.

Based in the capital, Libreville, where they will get huge support, they have a chance to put down a marker when they face Guinea-Bissau in the opening match.

But a lack of depth is a huge concern, as is the absence of a defence capable of nullifying the continent's finest attackers.

The Coach: All coaches at the Nations Cup are under pressure, but there is probably more on Jose Antonio Camacho than most. The Spaniard has twice coached Real Madrid and took Spain to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has the ability to make defenders and goalkeepers look foolish

Key Player: Is there a more coveted African striker in world football today than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bundesliga's Player of the 2015/16 season - the first African to win the award? The goal-scoring burden will fall squarely on the shoulders of the 27-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward.

How far can Gabon go? With a limited Burkina Faso and minnows Guinea-Bissau in this group, Gabon should be expecting to qualify - especially given home advantage. But there is also the danger of the squad crumbling under the pressure of hosting.

BURKINA FASO:

Nickname: Stallions

Nations Cup High Point: (Runners-up 2013)

How they qualified: Taking three points off Uganda was key to finishing top of a tightly-contested group because of a superior head-to-head record.

Team Guide: Hosts in 1998, Burkina Faso will be making their 10th appearance in the last 12 tournaments.

The 2013 tournament in South Africa is the only Nations Cup outside of Burkina Faso where the Stallions have ever won a match.

Their opening group victory over Ethiopia in 2013 represented the first time Burkina had won a match outside of their homeland (i.e. when hosting the 1998 Nations Cup) in 22 times of asking.

In Equatorial Guinea in 2015, they again failed to win a match.

Qualification for Gabon was a bit of a struggle for the Stallions and they certainly do not have the look of continental kings about them.

Bertrand Traore
Bertrand Traore has the technical ability to unlock defences at a moment's notice

The Coach: Will his second coming be a success? Paulo Duarte was previously in charge of Burkina Faso between 2007 and 2012, leading them to two Nations Cups appearances. The 47-year-old Portuguese is also a former coach of host nation and group rivals, Gabon.

Key Player: Bertrand Traore is undoubtedly one of the most exciting forwards in African football today. He became a Stallion at the age of 15, and is the younger brother of Alain, who has been a lynchpin of the side in recent tournaments. Now aged 21, he is on a season-long loan at Dutch side Ajax from Chelsea.

How far can Burkina go? In 10 Nations Cups, the Burkinabe have failed on eight occasions to get past the group stage. However, on both occasions they have got out of the group, they have reached at least the semi-finals (1998, 2013). If they manage to beat Cameroon in their opening game, they will truly shake up the group.

CAMEROON:

Nickname: Indomitable Lions

Nations Cup High Point: (Champions 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002)

How they qualified: The two draws against South Africa were ultimately decisive in thwarting their man rivals' ambitions. In the end, the Indomitable Lions finished six points ahead of second-placed Mauritania.

Team Guide: Devoid of the stars of yesteryear, results have been more down than up for a nation once regarded as the gold standard for African football.

By the time Cameroon step onto the pitch in Gabon, it will be seven years since they last won a match at the Nations Cup.

For the record, the Indomitable Lions had reached the quarter-finals at every Nations Cup between 1998 and 2010.

Although Cameroon have lost their aura, recent results have given their fans some cause for optimism as they were unbeaten in qualifying and conceded only two goals.

The Coach: Hugo Broos has been in charge for less than a year after taking over from the sacked German Volker Finke. The Belgian has also coached in Greece, Turkey and Algeria in recent years.

Hugo broos with Cameroon players
Hugo Broos has been in charge of the Indomitable Lions for less than a year

Key Player: Benjamin Moukandjo of French club Lorient can play on either wing or as a central striker. Blessed with genuine pace, he is capable of stretching defences. And with more than 30 international caps, the Indomitable Lions captain is also not short of experience.

How far can Cameroon go? There really is no excuse for Cameroon not to at least get out of this group. Anything short of a spot in the second round would be seen as a failure. If results follow script, they should make the semi-finals.

GUINEA-BISSAU:

Nickname: The Djurtus (African Wild Dog)

Nations Cup High Point: No previous appearances

How they qualified: Booked their debut at the finals by topping a group they were expected to prop up thanks to back-to-back wins against Kenya and a victory over 2012 African champions Zambia.

Team Guide: Guinea-Bissau is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked in the bottom 10 in the United Nation's human development index.

They are the 39th country to participate in the finals since the first tournament in 1957.

Before this campaign, Guinea-Bissau had played a mere 32 competitive internationals, in either Nations Cup or World Cup, winning onlyfour matches.

Their squad is a motley collection of expatriates (players of Guinea-Bissau heritage born in Europe) who play mostly for lower league clubs in Portugal.

Their presence is Gabon is one of the most remarkable stories in African football history.

Cicero
Cicero scored the vital late goal in the 1-0 victory over Kenya in qualifying

The Coach: After coaching the team between 2003 and 2010, Baciro Cande is back for his second spell. He returned to his old job when Portuguese coach Paulo Torres was banned for four games by the Confederation of African Football for abusing a referee.

Key Player: Cicero, who plays his club football for Pacos de Ferreira in the Portuguese top flight, is a technically gifted and physically imposing player. He has scored six goals in 14 internationals and is expected to lead the line for the newcomers.

How far can Guinea-Bissau go? Qualifying from a group in which they were expected to finish last was a phenomenal feat. But while you wish underdogs all the luck in the world, one gets the feeling that only a miracle will see them finish anywhere other than fourth in this group.

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