Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang / AFP PHOTO / CARMEN JASPERSEN
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and hosts Gabon vowed to put a poor start to their Africa Cup of Nations behind them and beat Burkina Faso on Wednesday in the second series of Group A matches.
A “Panthers” team captained by the Borussia Dortmund star striker conceded a last-minute goal to only draw 1-1 with minnows Guinea-Bissau in the tournament opener.
Former African Footballer of the Year Aubameyang put the home team ahead with a tap-in only for Juary Soares to nod the leveller off a free-kick.
With four-time champions Cameroon held 1-1 by Burkina Faso later last Saturday, every team has one point and identical goal records going into the second round of group games.
Gabon and Burkina Faso clash at 5:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) in the 40,000-seat Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville followed by Cameroon against Guinea-Bissau three hours later.
Aubameyang knows he and his team-mates let supporters of the central African team down and has promised a better performance against opponents they beat 2-0 at the same stage two years ago.
“We have learnt from our mistakes,” said the 27-year-old born in France to a Gabonese father and a Spanish mother, making him eligible to represent three nations.
He opted for Gabon, a country once captained by his father who have never gone further than the quarter-finals at the Cup of Nations.
“I remain positive that we can reach our first goal, which is qualifying for the knockout phase,” said the leading Bundesliga scorer this season with 16 goals from 15 matches.
“We have lofty ambitions in this tournament and playing at home in front of our wonderful supporters is a great advantage.
“Mistakes were made against Guinea-Bissau, like conceding a goal in the final minute. We must now rectify those errors and defeat Burkina Faso.”
The Burkinabe, whose best showing was finishing runners-up to 2013 champions Nigeria, fell behind to Cameroon and survived an onslaught before levelling.
Centre-back Bakary Kone, midfielder and captain Charles Kabore and winger Jonathan Pitroipa form an experienced backbone to an unpredictable side.
– ‘Littered with upsets’ –
Belgium-born Cameroon coach Hugo Broos is nervous about facing shock qualifiers Guinea-Bissau in the second half of a double-header.
“Playing against less-well-known teams can be tricky,” he warned, “and we do not want to go into our final group game against Gabon needing a win to survive.
“I have studied the history of the Cup of Nations and it is littered with upsets. Remember, Zambia won the 2012 title here (Libreville) against massive odds.
“The days when higher-ranked countries could go into a group game confident of winning convincingly are long gone.
“We want to reach the quarter-finals and then see where we go from there,” said the successor to underachieving German Volker Finke as coach of the “Indomitable Lions”.
Guinea-Bissau sensationally won a qualifying group including former champions Congo Brazzaville and Zambia and continued the fairytale run by holding Gabon.
“We now have the motivation to go far,” said Baciro Cande, who took charge of the “Wild Dogs” when Portuguese Paulo Torres was barred for four matches during the qualifiers.
“My team may not have any big-name footballers, but we have unity and determination, and that counts for so much.
“No one gave us a chance against Gabon and we could have ended up winning that match.”