African Cup of Nations: A look at Group A

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 file photo, Gabon Pierre Eymerick Aubameyang, left, scores past Niger's goalkeeper Saminou Rabo during their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match at Stade De L'Amitie in Libreville, Gabon. The African Cup of Nations returns to Gabon for the second time in five years with the kickoff on Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 and the final on Feb. 5. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, file)
FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010 file photo, Gabon's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, left, is challenged by Tunisia's Ammar Jemal in their African Cup of Nations Group D match at Tundavala Stadium in Lubango, Angola. The African Cup of Nations returns to Gabon for the second time in five years with the kickoff on Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 and the final on Feb. 5. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

JOHANNESBURG — A look at the teams, key players and coaches in Group A at the African Cup of Nations:

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GABON

Gabon gets to stage the African Cup for the second time in five years, hoping that home advantage will help carry the team to at least the semifinals this time. As co-host in 2012, Gabon topped its group and did it by playing some compelling soccer. An agonizing loss in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals cut short the euphoria. Gabon has slipped down the world rankings since then and a couple of results last year, including a 4-1 hammering by Ivory Coast, signaled that this team may also struggle to get to the semifinals for the first time. But home crowds can be a powerful motivator and Gabon has Africa's top tournament all to itself for the next three weeks as the sole host.

KEY PLAYER: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

No doubt Gabon's standout player, the 27-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker is the top scorer in Germany's Bundesliga with 16 goals in 15 games this season. The burning question will be: Can his teammates provide Aubameyang with the help he needs?

COACH: Jose Antonio Camacho

The former Spain and Real Madrid coach was appointed at the beginning of last month and has had just six weeks with the players. His influence on a team that struggled last year is as yet unknown but Camacho comes with solid experience of managing in Spain's top division.

BEST RESULT: Quarterfinals, 1996 and 2012.

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BURKINA FASO

Burkina Faso surprisingly made the 2013 final, narrowly losing to Nigeria. That team was led by the attacking duo of Aristide Bance and Jonathan Pitroipa, who are still regulars. But Burkina Faso has always had an up-and-down time at the African Cup and consistency has never been its strength. Two years after being within touching distance of the title, Burkina Faso was eliminated in the group stage at the last African Cup without winning a game.

KEY PLAYER: Bertrand Traore

Although Bance and Pitroipa are important to Burkina Faso, maybe this tournament will be a coming-of-age for Chelsea's Bertrand Traore. The 21-year-old creative midfielder, now on loan at Dutch club Ajax, first played for Burkina Faso's national team at the age of 15, a sign of serious talent.

COACH: Paulo Duarte

Duarte was formerly head coach of Gabon but was fired for failing to qualify for the 2015 African Cup. The meeting with Gabon, then, in the group stage may be a grudge match for the Portuguese and a chance to prove a point.

BEST RESULT: Runner-up, 2013.

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CAMEROON

Roger Milla's hip-wiggling celebration and Cameroon players dancing their way into the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup — the first African team to do that — is now a very distant memory. Cameroon failed to even qualify for the Cup of Nations in 2012 and 2013 and left the last tournament, which was meant to be a glorious comeback, without winning a game. Cameroon also embarrassed itself at the last two World Cups, losing all six of its games. There were signs of a turnaround, with Cameroon unbeaten in competitive games last year, only for more problems to emerge in the lead-up to this tournament when eight players, including Premier League-based defenders Joel Matip and Allan Nyom, and striker Eric Maxim Choupo Moting, decided they didn't want to play at the tournament. It doesn't bode well.

KEY PLAYER: Benjamin Moukandjo

The new captain has the task of uniting the Cameroon team. If he strikes up a profitable partnership with Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon might start winning back some pride.

COACH: Hugo Broos

Cameroon's resurgence over the last 12 months has coincided with Broos' appointment at the beginning of last year. It's the former Belgium defender's first job as coach of a national team.

BEST RESULT: Winner, 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2002.

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GUINEA BISSAU

One of the stories of the tournament, even before a ball is kicked. Guinea-Bissau qualified for the African Cup for the first time ever, allowing players at clubs in the second division in Romania and third division in Portugal to brush shoulders with world-class stars like Aubameyang. Guinea Bissau, a little dot of a country on the far west coast of Africa, only had its first shot at qualifying for the African Cup in 1994.

KEY PLAYER: The team

There are no stars in this team. Captain Bocundji Ca, a midfielder with second-tier French club Stade Riems, said it best in a recent interview with a local radio station: "We attack and defend together."

COACH: Baciro Cande

Few people outside of the former Portuguese colony will have heard of head Cande, but the 68-year-old former Guinea-Bissau player is responsible for masterminding his country's greatest soccer moment, and one of the biggest surprises in African soccer.

BEST RESULT: Debut.

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AP writer Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this story.

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