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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang return vs Ghana confirmed, Gabon coach tests positive

15:58 WAT 13/01/2022
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang Gabon
The Arsenal skipper will make his return for the Panthers against the Black Stars on Friday

Gabon have confirmed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has recovered from coronavirus and will feature against Ghana in Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations clash.

The Arsenal striker sat out the Panthers' opening Afcon match — a 1-0 victory over Comoros — after testing positive for Covid-19 upon his arrival in Cameroon for the biennial African showpiece.

Both Aubameyang and compatriot Mario Lemina received positive tests at Yaounde airport, following a leisure stint in Abu Dhabi before the tournament, but assistant manager Anicet Yala has confirmed that both will return for the Ghana game.

However, Gabon will have to do without head coach Patrice Neveu, who is isolating after himself testing positive for the virus.

“We have registered the return of Mario and Aubameyang,” Lala told GOAL on Thursday, “but unfortunately some players have returned into the red zone — (right-back) Lloyd Palun and sadly, sadly, (central defender) Sidney Obissa.

“The coach Patrice is also not here because he tested positive, and as per Caf recommendations, he’s in isolation.”

Lala, who will be taking the reins of Gabon in light of their French coach’s absence, has confirmed that the staff are willing to change a winning team ahead of the match against Ghana…and bring Aubameyang back into the fold.

“Naturally, when you have a player of the value of Aubameyang who returns, things have to change around up front,” he added.

“Mario, who wasn’t there [against Comoros], and Aubameyang are two important players, they’ve played many games for the national side, and we’ll make sure everyone's in the right place to maximise Gabon’s chances [of defeating Ghana].”

Without Aubameyang, Gabon saw off debutants Comoros in their opening Group C fixture, with Aaron Boupendza netting the only goal of the game in the 16th minute.

Ghana, by contrast, struggled to impose themselves against Morocco in their first match, in Yaounde, and fell to a 1-0 defeat following Sofiane Boufal’s late winner.

The Black Stars meet Comoros in their final group game—in Garoua—while Gabon face off with Morocco at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde.

The Nations Cup to date has been beset by positive coronavirus cases, making preparation difficult for coaches and players alike.

Beyond Aubameyang, the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy (both Senegal) and Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso) have had their tournaments disrupted after returning positive tests.

"I got the opportunity to still be able to work in my room. I got a bike and made a circuit, trying to keep in shape as much as possible," Auba told his country’s federation Facebook page. "It's not going to be easy, because it's not the same as match rhythm or proper training but we'll get it done.

"We're going to play a very difficult opponent who needs to win the game, so we'll have to be serious like we were in the first game," he concluded. "I know we'll have our chances."

AmaZulu goalkeeper Jean-Noel Amonome looks likely to retain his place in the Gabon XI despite sitting out training on Wednesday.

"Jean-Noel didn't train because he felt a bit of pain," Lala added. "He didn't train because of this, but it's nothing serious.

"We hope he'll be ok - at 100 percent - on Friday."