Top players to watch in 2015 AFCON: Aubameyang (Gabon)

Dortmund's Aubameyang (Photo: Reuters)
Tuesday 13 Jan 2015
Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will in Equatorial Guinea hope to make up for his penalty miss which denied Gabon an historic semi-final appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations three years ago.

Aubameyang scored three goals as co-hosts Gabon reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 Nations Cup, but he failed to convert his kick in the penalty shoot-out, allowing Mali to reach the last four instead.

That run to the quarter-finals matched Gabon's record at the 1996 tournament in South Africa, where they also reached the last eight.

Known as 'Aubame' or 'Auba', and the son of former Gabon international Pierre Aubameyang -- led Gabon in their Nations Cup debut in 1994 -- the Dortmund star scored twice and provided four assists as Gabon finished top of Group C of the qualifying tournament for the 2015 Nations Cup ahead of Burkina Faso.

The Panthers will again battle Burkina Faso in the first round of Equatorial Guinea 2015 along with the host nation and Congo Brazzaville.


In August 2014, Aubemayang made headlines when he celebrated his goal in Dortmund's German Super Cup win against Bayern Munich by pulling on the mask of comic superhero Spiderman.

Now he will be counted on to lead his country to glory in Equatorial Guinea after coming so close in 2012.

The 25-year-old forward, formerly of Saint-Etienne, has been one of the most consistent African strikers in Europe in recent times and this was underscored by the fact he made the final five nominees for the CAF African Footballer of the Year in the past two years.

He was only beaten by Manchester City star Yaya Toure to the continent's biggest individual accolade for 2014.

Aubameyang, who started out with the AC Milan youth team, could play either as a central striker or on the wings. He boasts of aerial prowess as well as a blistering burst of speed – he has been timed to run 30 metres in 3.7 seconds.

"He can shield the ball, he's pretty good in the air, he's always in top shape and he can also play with his back to goal," remarked Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp of his all-round attacking ace.

He featured for France age-group teams but he eventually opted to play for his father's native country and thus made his debut in 2009. He has since gone on to net 14 goals in 38 appearances for Gabon.

After a difficult start in the German Bundesliga in 2013, he has flourished at Dortmund to become one of the club's key stars by contributing 18 goals and 8 assists in 49 appearances in all competitions in the past year.

After the Nations Cup campaign, he will head back to Germany with the aim of helping transform the fortunes of his club. Champions as recently as 2011 and 2012, they now languish second from bottom in the Bundesliga table after a terrible first half of the season.

In the absence of injured talisman Marco Reus, the Gabon skipper has had a key role to play for his club already this season, netting five goals in the league and three in the UEFA Champions League, where they have reached the knockout stage after winning their group ahead of Arsenal.

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