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Time for players to do the talking - Gabon coach
Published : 04 Feb 2012 17:46:47Rss feed
History may be knocking on Gabon's door but coach Gernot Rohr was the epitome of calm on the eve of his team's quarter-final with Mali here on Saturday.
The Africa Cup of Nations' co-hosts are 90 tense minutes away from their first ever semi-final in the continental showpiece.
But Rohr cut a relaxed figure at the team hotel as the German held a press conference with two of his younger stars, midfielders Andre Poko Biyogho attached to Bordeaux and Celtic Viga's Levy Madinda.
"When we began this tournament there was doubt and uncertainty, now we are facing a unique chance to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time," said the former Bayern Munich and Bordeaux player.
"We had more pressure on our shoulders at the start of the first round. We have enjoyed a beautiful adventure up to now, and I don't think this will finish on Sunday against Mali.
"This game could rewrite Gabon's footballing history, but that said there is not much pressure on us."
Despite their perfect three out of three record since battle commenced Gabon have been reluctant to accept the tag of favourites against a Mali side that struggled to make it to the runners-up spot in their group.
The Panthers' boss said: "It's 50-50, we're not favourites, we are prudent and we respect our rivals, they are a very good side. We are concentrated on our mission which is to pass this quarter-final hurdle with motivation and with heart."
With the knockout stage less than 24 hours away Rohr added: "Things change now, if we lose we're out, whereas when we beat Morocco or Tunisia in the group round we knew even with defeat we could still go through.
"My team has added confidence now, but I hope not too much confidence.
"Mali are a very strong physical side with good technique but I know we have the qualities to beat them.
"They (Mali) had trouble qualifying, they lost against Ghana and suffered against Botswsana. They've had a hard road to travel but we're wary of them. I don't fear them, I respect them."
Madinda is wallowing in the occasion.
"This is a great feast, a great moment for us," said the player.
"It's a great joy for Gabon to host this African festival," added Biyogo, who said the senior team had been inspired by the success of the U23 side in qualifying for the London Olympics for the first time.
"That's certainly given us motivation, it's given us strength to reach a higher level."
Rohr then took his leave to put the finishing touches to Gabon's date with destiny with a parting shot to the assembled media: "Now it's time for my players to do the talking."
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