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Youthful Gabon can impress at 2015 Africa Cup of Nations

Former French territory Gabon (20/1 chances with Coral to win the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations) will travel the short distance to neighbours and this year’s AFCON hosts Equatorial Guinea with no fear.

Besides two of their keepers, Didier Ovono and Yves Bitseki (who are both 31), the Panthers, they have no player under 27 years old, and have an average outfield age of under 23, meaning they’ll be hungry for success.

Gabon are currently on a run of six matches without defeat leading up to their pre-tournament friendly with Mali, and boast a top striker in Borussia Dortmund attacker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is his nations’ captain.

The 25-year-old is usually deployed as a winger for the German outfit, but used in a centre forward role for his nation. Aubameyang has 14 goals in 38 appearances for his country, and will be hoping he will be provided with enough support.

Central African side Gabon qualified for the finals after coming through their group with ease, topping the table with losing, against Lesotho, Angola and Burkina Faso.

The Panthers will have to face the latter again in Equatorial Guinea, as well as the hosts and Congo, in what is perhaps the ‘easiest’ of the four pools.

Gabon certainly know they have what it takes to reach the knockout stages of this tournament, having done so twice before, in 1996 and when they co-hosted it with Equatorial Guinea in 2012. Being so close to home again could spur them on.

They have a large contingent of France-based talent in keeper Anthony Mfa Mezui (Metz); defenders Lloyd Palun (Nice), Henri Junior Ndong (Auxerre), Yrondu Musavu-King (Caen), Johann Obiang (Chateauroux); midfielders Andre Poko (Bordeaux), Didier N’Dong (FC Lorient) and Alexander N’Doumbou (Marseille).

Highly-rated L’OM central midfielder Mario Lemina, though, has refused a call-up, after it appears the 21-year-old has set his sights on representing adopted country France in the future. He has been replaced with the only Gabon-based player Bonaventure Sokambi.

On Twitter, Lemina said on his apparent call-up: “All that is being said are just rumours, I’m sorry but there has been no agreement between Gabon and me. I will not go to the Nations Cup.”

There will be two English Championship-based representatives, meanwhile, in Charlton Athletic loanee Frederic Bulot and Cardiff City centre back summer signing Bruno Ecuele Manga. Other players to look out for are Celta Vigo’s Levy Madinda and forward Malick Evouna of Wydad Casablanca, who has five goals in his first nine caps.