Gabon’s Charly Moussono (top) vies with Niger’s Alhassane Issoufou during their recent match in Libreville
Gabon coach Gernot Rohr refused to allow himself the luxury of basking in the satisfaction of the Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts’ storming start against Niger.
Monday’s 2-0 defeat of the competition first-timers, the goals coming from the heads of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Stephane Nguema, lifted Gabon to the top of Group C on goal difference from Tunisia.
But this was only a first step along what he hopes will be a long journey, the 58-year-old German coach cautioned.
Rohr rejected comparisons with Gabon’s 2010 campaign, when they started in style too, shocking Cameroon, only to fail to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“I’m not looking back, I’m looking in front of us, 2010 doesn’t interest us any more. What counts is the future.
“This was a first step, we have two more games to qualify. It was a good start, we won, we played well, but more difficult games against better teams than Niger are to come.”
Starting with former Cup winners Morocco who have identified Friday’s clash as an “all or nothing” contest after falling 2-1 to Tunisia.
Rohr added: “My satisfaction is short lived, now I’m preparing for Morocco, they are still one of the best teams.”
He has been keeping close tabs on his side’s next opponents, revealing: “We’ve watched Morocco on video, and I’ve had people going to see them play. They’re a very good side.”
He took many positives away from Monday’s first competitive match since 2010 after a two-year diet of friendlies.
“Our defence was solid, we didn’t concede a goal, we only picked up one yellow card (Nguema), we had no injuries…
“The first game is always difficult but we were able to overcome the stress of the evening.”
He added the hope that the match had alerted the traditional posse of scouts from European clubs to the talent available in his squad, many of whom are attached to Gabonese sides.
“I have a lot of local players, scouts take note – I hope these guys can become well known.”
For Niger this was a chastening beginning to Cup life, but they vowed to take it on the chin and bounce back in their next two matches, starting with Tunisia on Friday.
Captain Idrissa Laouali reflected: “We knew it was going to be tough, we were up against the hosts, and a side that are very strong defensively.
“It’s a defeat but it will motivate us for the future. Against Tunisia we will reinforce our defence and we’ll be able to do a lot better.
“It’s a good thing to represent our country, and it’s not because we’ve lost our first match that it doesn’t mean we can’t win our next two.
“We’re not discouraged.”
Niger coach Harouna Doula admitted his side had become unbalanced in the face of the Gabonese onslaught, but insisted all was by no means lost.
“We’ve played better in the past, psychologically it was tough for us. But we can forget this one and prepare ourselves mentally for the games ahead.”