Cameroon/Gabon: Last Chance for Gabon At Afcon

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\n \n Photo: CAF

\n Cameroon’s team celebrates reaching the Africa Cup of Nations finals. (file photo)

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Hosts Gabon face their date with destiny on Sunday when they take on Cameroon in their final Group A clash at the African Nations Cup finals in Libreville.

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A victory for the home side will signal their advance to the quarterfinals — and no doubt a sigh of relief from around the country after what was a poor start to the tournament.

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They are seeking to avoid becoming only the fourth host nation in the 60-year history of the tournament to exit after the first group round, a fate that befell Tunisia (1994), Ivory Coast (1984) and Ethiopia (1976) previously.

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A draw could be enough but will depend on Burkina Faso getting no more than a point against Guinea-Bissau in their final match, as well as scoring fewer goals.

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At the moment Gabon and Burkina Faso have identical records in terms of points, and goals scored and conceded, while the fixture between them finished 1-1.

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If two teams finish level on points, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) first uses the head-to-head record between the teams to separate them. If that provides no joy, they move to goal-difference in all games and then goals scored in all games. As things stand, those criteria are level between Gabon and Burkina Faso.

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This raises the prospect that lots will have to be drawn, as happened in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 to separate Mali and Guinea, with the latter getting the good fortune.

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Gabon have been blighted by injuries to key players, with key midfielder Mario Lemina and fullback Johann Obiang not able to recover from injury in time to continue in the tournament.

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Their Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho remains optimistic though, and following their 1-1 draw with the Burkinabe last time out, he felt the performance deserved more than a single point.

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“Failing to beat Burkina Faso was frustrating. We had several chances but we did not convert them, though the players gave their best and attacked, piling pressure on Burkina Faso,” Camacho said.

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“We had hoped for a win but it did not come. I know the frustrations of our fans but we hope to atone despite having a tough fixture against Cameroon.

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“I am optimistic we will qualify for the quarterfinals even though a lot of pundits wrote us off after the draw. As a coach I have to keep on encouraging and motivating my players to keep focus and work hard on the pitch.”

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Cameroon know that a point will be enough to see them advance to the next stage. Even a defeat will be good enough if Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau draw their final match, or if the latter are victorious.

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The only scenario that will see Cameroon now eliminated is if they lose to Gabon and Burkina Faso beat Guinea-Bissau.

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