Cameroon have had to contend with several key withdrawals as they begin their bid for Africa Cup of Nations glory with a match against Group A rivals Burkina Faso on Saturday.
The opening day of the tournament will see the two teams meet in Libreville after hosts and group favourites Gabon have taken on outsiders Guinea-Bissau.
The top two teams will progress to the quarter-finals, with Cameroon among the candidates to win the trophy as they seek a first title since 2002.
That status comes despite eight of their preliminary squad – including key players Joel Matip and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – withdrawing from the event in a significant blow to their hopes.
“We respect all teams but we fear no one,” newly installed captain Benjamin Moukandjo told Supersport.
“As players our focus is to win matches and bring back the glory to Cameroon. We are all excited about the competition and our first aim is to go past the first round. Then we reorganise ourselves from that point onwards.”
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 11, 2017
Burkina Faso, meanwhile, are outsiders having crashed out of the group stages in three of their last four appearances.
The one exception, though, was 2013, when they made a shock run to the final before being beaten by Nigeria. Forward Jonathan Pitroipa is among the stars from that tournament in South Africa still to be involved.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Burkina Faso – Bertrand Traore
While the experience of Pitroipa – Player of the Tournament in 2013 – and Aristide Bance will be vital, Bertrand Traore will be relied upon to provide Burkina Faso’s spark.
The 21-year-old – on loan at Ajax – has the ideal chance to prove he has a long-term future at Chelsea by shining on the big stage.
Cameroon – Vincent Aboubakar
Vincent Aboubakar, who plays his club football on loan at Besiktas from Porto, is among the favourites to win the golden boot.
He has scored two goals in four World Cup qualifying appearances for Cameroon and represents a major threat alongside Moukandjo.
KEY OPTA STATS
– Burkina Faso have won only two of their last 26 games at the Africa Cup of Nations (D10 L14).
– The Stallions have also never won their opening game at an AFCON tournament (D4 L6).
– Cameroon are making their 18th appearance in the tournament. They have won it four times (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002) – only Egypt have been more successful (seven trophies).
– The Indomitable Lions have only won one of their last eight AFCON games (D3 L4), failing to win any of their last five – their longest drought in the tournament’s history.
– Of Burkina Faso’s last 13 goals at the AFCON, 12 have been scored after half-time.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!