January 14, 2017 / 3:04 AM / 8 months ago

Hosts must overcome nerves to make winning start

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Hosts Gabon must overcome nerves and a little-known opponent as they seek to get off to a winning start when the African Nations Cup finals opens with two matches on Saturday. “There is a lot of pressure but it’s a positive to be playing at home. We have some stress but also a lot of determination,” Gabon defender Bruno Ecuele Manga said on the eve of their match against newcomers Guinea Bissau.

Gabon’s opponents are seeking to continue the fairytale run they had through the qualifiers.

Guinea Bissau is one of the continent’s poorest countries and their preparations have been beset by money problems, including a players’ strike last week.

Burkina Faso and Cameroon clash in the second Group A game at the 40,000-capacity Stade de l‘Amitie, both believing a win will put them on course for the quarter-finals.

“If we win this game we are already 50 percent sure to go through,” said Cameroon coach Hugo Broos.

“There is a lot motivation in our squad to get a positive result,” added Burkina coach Paulo Duarte.

Saturday’s matches kick off a three-week odyssey to decide the new African champions with the final in Libreville on Feb. 5.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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