Gabon could be the surprise package at the African Cup of Nations despite their young years.
Last Updated: 11/01/10 4:28pm
Gabon could be the surprise package at the African Cup of Nations in Angola, with a young side eager to prove a point.
Gabon almost staged an upset by beating four-time African Cup of Nations winners Cameroon to a place at the 2010 World Cup, but their inexperience caught up with them in the latter stages of the qualifiers and they had to settle for a spot at the African tournament.
The Black Panthers gave the Indomitable Lions a run for their money, surprising many that thought they would fail against the likes of the West African side, Togo and Morocco.
Alain Giresse's men, ranked 48th in the world qualified for final round of qualifying after finishing level on points with Ghana in a group also consisting of Libya and Lesotho.
Gabon then saw themselves drawn together with Cameroon, Morocco and Togo, with many believing they would be the group's whipping boys. However that was far from the truth.
The side started Group A with a bang winning their first match 2-1 against Morocco, in Casablanca, followed by a convincing 3-0 win against Togo.
The death of their president Omar Bongo derailed their plans somewhat as their home matches were postponed before the burial of the man who had been in power for 42 years.
They lost both their matches against Cameroon but went on to beat Morocco in the return leg 3-1. They lost their last match to Togo, who were also fighting for a spot at AFCON.
They failed to qualify for the World Cup but will make the trip to Angola where they will be making their third appearance. However, they will be looking to improve on their previous two campaigns which saw them knocked out in the first round.
One to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has just two caps for the Black Panthers, something which doesn't sit well with many Gabon supporters.
He was brought into the squad mainly to ensure he does not have the choice to represent France having represented their Under-21 side. Pierre-Emerick scored on his debut against Morocco in the 2-1 win.
The 20-year-old joined AC Milan's youth team in 2007 but was sent on loan to French outfit Dijon FOC. He is currently on a loan spell with Lille. He is fast, skilful and packs a powerful shot.
Coach: Alain Giresse
Frenchman Giresse has been in charge of Gabon since 2006, having previously managed Toulouse in France. As a player he was part of France's 'Magic Four' midfield alongside greats Michel Platini, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez.
In 2008, he threatened to leave the side citing that he felt unsafe but the government begged him to stay, which he obliged to.