Gabon showed flashes of impressive play through the tournament despite their eventual elimination. Taking the tournament as a whole it’s undoubted that Gabon generally had the better of their opponents. Against Burkina Faso they exhibited a grit which they utilised in picking off an opponent who had arguably had clearer cut chances. Against Congo they created and were simply hungrier and more adventurous than their opponents. In terms of their arrival as an African footballing superpower, perhaps such talk is premature. However, after years of steady momentum being built it’s undoubted that Gabon are a side which deserves respect, and even despite the results they’ll walk away from the tournament feeling they have shown this.
Wastefulness. A total inability to make it count when it truly matters. The stats against Congo make for interesting reading: 61% of possession overall, 14 shots on target, but a 1-0 loss. A game which on paper Gabon would have looked at as ensuring safe passage to the next round. Much was made of the potential of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Frederic Bulot and Malick Evouna pre-tournament, yet the potential of that strikeforce never quite materialised.
Gabon’s AFCON 2015 campaign reached its low point with the 2-0 loss against Equatorial Guinea, a side thrown together with 3 weeks’ notice. Dodgy refereeing aside, Gabon at times rode their luck and struggled to impose themselves in a game which, again, you would have said was theirs for the taking. The weight of expectation; too much pressure? Perhaps, but what’s certain is that when expected to assert themselves Gabon fell short.
Most disappointingly there was a feeling pre-tournament that his Gabon side has been developing steadily over the last few years. An impressive CAF U-23 tournament win in 2011, an AFCON quarter-final appearance on home soil in 2012 followed by an appearance at the London 2012 Olympics indicated that 2015 was a culmination of years of hard work. Yet, what we’re actually left with is sense of missed opportunity, a coming-of-age which started with a bright spark but soon faded into the night.