Jan 16, 2015 22:30:00
Burkina Faso’s quest to put their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations disappointment behind them begins when they face Gabon on Saturday.
The West African nation made it all the way to the final two years ago, but were subsequently beaten 1-0 by Nigeria in Johannesburg.
Gabon are their opening opponents in Group A this weekend as the 2015 tournament gets under way, with head coach Paul Put keen to get a good start in Bata as Burkina look to progress from the group stages for only the third time in their history.
Belgian Put has been in charge of Burkina since 2012 and much is expected of his side after the success in South Africa, especially with Jonathan Pitroipa spearheading their attack.
The Al Jazira striker was top-scorer during the qualifying campaign thanks to a six-goal haul, but he was unable to fire Burkina to top spot in their group.
That honour went to Gabon, meaning both sides are more than aware of the threat their opponents have going into their opening match.
Gabon won the first qualifying game 2-0 in October, with the reverse fixture in Ouagadougou ending 1-1 after a Pitroipa strike was cancelled out by Malick Evouna.
Pitroipa is well supported within Put’s 23-man squad by the likes of Bakary Kone, Aristide Bance, Alain and Bertrand Traore.
Jorge Costa remains confident his side have what it takes to progress in the competition again, but knows they face a tough start.
He said: “We know Burkina Faso is a tough team, but we are well prepared and ready to take them on.”
Part of their preparations will have focused on how to stop Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who netted both his goals in qualifying against Burkina.
Although Dortmund have struggled in the Bundesliga this season, Aubameyang has still maintained a good scoring record with 11 goals in all competitions.
Aubameyang’s attentions now turn to the national team, though, and Gabon are enjoying a return to the Africa Cup of Nations after missing out in 2013, with head coach Jorge Costa hoping to guide them out of the group for only the third time.
In their last finals appearance in 2012, Gabon – who co-hosted the tournament – reached the quarter-finals, their best performance.
Costa will hope Burkina’s traditional slow start in the finals continues, with the latter having never won their first match in nine previous appearances.
Written For http://www.globalruns.com