Dark Horses in Danger
Two of the Cup of Nations Dark Horses, Gabon and Burkina Faso, are in danger of dropping out of the competition this evening.
Group A has not followed the form guide.
Equatorial Guinea—with a new manager and an unfamiliar team—were expected to struggle, but instead, remain unbeaten and have picked up two draws.
The Republic of Congo, resilient if uninspired in qualifying, looked hopeless during their introductory 45-minute showing against the hosts in the tournament opener, but responded to beat Gabon 1-0 in their second match.
The Panthers, for their part, were responsible for one of the results of the tournament when they beat 2013 finalists Burkina Faso on matchday one, but looked lethargic and disinterested against the Congo. Their progression now hangs in the balance—something few would have expected after their impressive start.
And what of the Stallions?
Despite boasting of an excellent collection of players and, perhaps most importantly, a consistent, stable starting XI, Paul Put’s outfit simply haven’t got out of the blocks.
They sit bottom of the group with one point heading into tonight’s crunch fixtures.
Congo sit in pole position, a draw against Burkina Faso would be enough to see them through, while a loss would also be enough if Gabon and Equatorial Guinea draw.
In the match between the hosts and the Panthers, a draw favours Gabon, although it doesn’t guarantee progression. If Burkina Faso beat Congo and Gabon draw with Equatorial Guinea, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and co. will be out.
Burkina Faso know that only a win would give them a chance of making the quarter-finals, however, considering their impotence to date, it would take a major improvement for the Stallions to overcome Claude Le Roy’s well-drilled unit.
Will we see two of the tournament’s Dark Horses drop out of the competition this evening, or can their collective parts—evidently superior to their Group A rivals—succeed in seeing them through to the last eight?
Either side, if they overcome their early slip ups, have the potential to pick up momentum and run to the final.
by Ed Dove