Burkina Faso vs Gabon | Saturday 17 January | Bata | 21:00
The opening match of AFCON 2015 will be followed by the other Group A encounter between Burkina Faso and Gabon. These two sides are no strangers as they were also pitted against each other in the qualifiers, with Gabon finishing in top spot one point above Burkina Faso.
To Win (90mins)
Burkina Faso 7/4
After dazzling their way to the final in the last edition of the tournament, Burkina Faso will be evaluating how they can produce similar success this time round—without the ‘surprise’ factor they had last time. AFCON 2013 was where Burkina Faso truly announced themselves to the world of football, as they floated through to the final in South Africa—only to be beaten by continental giants Nigeria. The Stallions then proved that 2013 was no fluke when they made it all the way to the play-offs to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, but lost out on the away goals rule to Algeria. Their recipe for success has been their valiant defence. They conceded just three goals in six matches during the 2013 tournament and just four goals from six matches during qualifying for this year’s event. However, in attack they tend to rely on one man in Jonathan Pitroipa, who was Player of the Tournament in 2013 and scored six of their eight goals during the 2015 qualifiers.
Gabon will enter this year's AFCON showpiece on the back of a convincing qualifying campaign, where they finished top of Group C with an undefeated record, winning their three home fixtures and drawing their three travels. They will likely look the more confident side after claiming four points off Burkina Faso in the qualifiers, earning a comfortable 2-0 win in Libreville. The squad is headlined by Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has been a key member of the Gabon side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 AFCON as co-hosts of the competition. He is one of the fastest footballers in the world and along with most of Gabon’s other players sets the tone for a high-intensity, direct game.
VERDICT: Gabon 17/10
While Burkina Faso have some good defenders, Gabon’s defence was just as solid in the qualifiers as they too conceded just four goals. Gabon have the superior attack and should once again oust their opponents.