Africa's brightest star on show
While Senegal's Demba Ba failed to deliver at the Africa Cup of Nations, a young striker from Gabon has begun to shine.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2012 19:15
Fun and games: Pierre Aubameyang (R) has managed to impress while having fun playing for Gabon [Reuters] 

Co-hosts Gabon have much to cheer going into the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Not only have they enjoyed a faultless group stage with three victories but they also appear to have a star in the making.

While many expected Senegal's Newcastle United striker Demba Ba to show his talent against lesser opponents, it has been Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang capturing headlines and turning heads.  

After the conclusion of the first round, one of the most open Nations Cups in history has thrown up a lot of disappointments - none bigger than the exit of Ba and Senegal from a tournament they had been predicted to win.

Ba fired 15 goals in the glamorous English Premier League before he jetted in for Africa's showpiece football event amid high expectations that went beyond the borders of Senegal.

The Teranga Lions, quarter-finalists at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, finished bottom of a group that included co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, Libya and Zambia and without a point from three matches.

And Ba failed to find the back of the net on his Nations Cup debut.

"We have to forget what has happened here," said the big striker.

"We were looking like a big side (in the qualifiers) but unfortunately the competition has shown the reality of African football."

Mohican magic

Instead of Ba, the headlines at the Nations Cup are now about 22-year-old, Mohican-haired Aubameyang, the tournament's joint-leading scorer with three goals.

He is the son of former Gabon star Pierre Aubameyang, who captained the country to the 1994 Nations Cup and two years later was also in the team that posted the country's best ever showing in the competition, when they reached
the last eight in South Africa.

The career at club level of the younger Aubameyang was anything but spectacular after he first struggled at Italian giants AC Milan before being loaned out to French sides Dijon and later Lille.

Demba Ba is on his way back to Newcastle after disappointment with Senegal [Reuters] 

However, it was at his third French club, Saint-Etienne, that he finally blossomed and was only recently rewarded with a contract to run for four and a half years.

A former France-U21 international, he is an athlete blessed with a phenomenal speed that has been measured at 37 kilometres per hour.

His brothers, Willy and Catilina, only just missed the final squad cut for this championship.

Aubameyang has also shown that he can shoulder the huge responsibilities thrust on him by an expectant nation of 1.5 million people.

"We no longer fear any team, no matter their status," declared the forward as the Panthers get set to battle Mali for a place in the semi-finals.

"Equatorial Guinea's victories against Libya and Senegal challenged us.

"Now there is a kind of power running through our veins that we need to reach the final on February 12."

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