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Preview: Burkina Faso vs. Gabon

The knockout stages start on Sunday at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon with an appetizing matchup between Gabon and Burkina Faso to commence the Round of 16. Burkina Faso are coming off a 1-1 draw against Ethiopia in their final group stage match that has inspired more questions than confidence from Burkinabé media. Gabon, on the other hand, are now quite confident with excellent performances on the pitch that have helped Les Panthères overcome plenty of controversy and issues with Covid-19.

Les Étalons have not shown their best football so far in Cameroon but Burkina Faso did well to earn qualification after being defeated by the hosts in their opening match. Covid-19 should not be a problem with star goalkeeper Hervé Koffi back in the squad and cleared for action on Sunday. Central defender Edmond Tapsoba stated in his pre-match comments that Gabon will play aggressive and the Stallions must be concentrated and prepared to play the ball quickly. The big question on Sunday for Burkinabé supporters is which version of Bertrand Traoré will show up. The Aston Villa playmaker has struggled with injuries all season and Burkina Faso needs him to be ready to deliver his best football.

In a competition with several surprise teams, Gabon may be the squad who have defied the experts the most. Nobody gave the Panthers a chance when it was announced that stars Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina were going to miss the opening two matches due to Covid-19, but this team has shown incredible resilience under manager Patrice Neveu. Neveu has pulled off a tactical masterpiece in Cameroon by adjusting to Covid-19 absences and changing his team’s look throughout the group stage to confound opposing managers. The French manager said that his team still considers themselves outsiders heading into the Round of 16 but the return of Denis Bouanga from Covid-19 will be a massive boost to the attack.

Key Matchup: Issa Kaboré (BFA) vs. Johann Obiang (GAB)

The Burkinabé attack loves to focus on the right flank and Issa Kaboré is always looking to get forward from his right back position and overlap while Bertrand Traoré looks to cut inside. The key for Gabon will be getting Kaboré to defend more, something that can be a weakness for the player on loan at Troyes from Manchester City. Keep an eye on how Burkina Faso’ right flank performs because left back Steeve Yago provides little to no impact going forward.

Prediction: Burkina Faso 1-0 Gabon

News Links

Burkina Faso v Gabon – Everything to play for (CAF Online)
Match Facts – Burkina Faso v Gabon (CAF Online)

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