Burkina Faso and Gabon get the ball rolling in the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations when they square off at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium on Sunday.
This will be their first encounter since 2017 when the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw, and Les Etalons will look to get one over their Central African counterparts having failed to win any of the last four meetings between the sides since 2013.
Burkina Faso secured their place in the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations last Monday when they held on for a 1-1 draw against Ethiopia at the Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam.
After heading into halftime with a one-goal lead through Cyrille Bayala, Getaneh Kebede restored parity from the penalty spot seven minutes after the interval but Les Etalons put on a defensive show of class to hold on to the point.
Prior to that, Kamou Malo’s men were welcomed to the tournament with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of host nation Cameroon on the opening day, before grinding out a 1-0 win over Cape Verde on January 13.
With four points from three games, the West African nation finished as runners-up in Group A, level on points with Cape Verde who also secured entry into the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed sides and three points off group winners Cameroon.
Burkina Faso head into Sunday’s game unbeaten in all but one of their last nine games across all competitions, picking up four wins and four draws while scoring 15 goals and keeping four clean sheets in that time.
While they will look to keep this fine run going and progress to the next stage of the competition, standing in their way is an opposing side who they have failed to defeat in each of the last four meetings between the teams.
Gabon, on the other hand, will be delighted with their performance at the Africa Cup of Nations as they enjoyed an unbeaten run in the group stages to clinch smooth passage into the last 16.
Les Pantheres opened their campaign with an impressive 1-0 victory over debutants Comoros on January 10 before holding Ghana to a 1-1 draw in their second group game four days later.
Patrice Neveu’s side turned in an eye-catching performance in their final group outing as they held a rampant Morocco side to a 2-2 draw when they squared off at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Tuesday.
Gabon took the lead twice in the game through Jim Allevinah and an own goal from Stade Rennais’ Nayef Aguerd, but Sofiane Boufal and Achraf Hakimi were on deck to level matters on each occasion.
With five points from three games, Gabon finished runners-up to Morocco in Group C and two points ahead of Comoros, who picked up their first-ever win in the tournament and progressed to the next phase when they stunned Ghana to a 3-2 victory in a classic group finale.
Like Burkina Faso, Gabon have avoided defeat in all but one of their most recent seven games in all competitions, claiming three wins and three draws in that time.
Burkina Faso possible starting lineup: Koffi; E Tapsoba, Dayo, Yago, Kabore; Guira, Toure; Traore, Sanagre, Bayala; A Tapsoba
Gabon possible starting lineup: Amonome; Oyono, Manga, Palun, Sambissa; Poko, Kanga, Obiang; Bouanga; Allevinah, Boupendza