In every edition of the Africa Cup of Nations since 1994, the host or co-hosts of the tournament have advanced to the knockout stages of the competition. The last time a host was unable to advance past the first round was in 1994, when the hosts Tunisia lost to Mali and drew Zaire as they failed to make the quarterfinals. The hosts in 2010, Angola, were perhaps the weakest hosts of the tournament since then and were able to make the quarterfinals.
This year is a bit of a different story. Though Gabon are no joke, they are in a group with Tunisia and Morocco, two much more talented sides. Equatorial Guinea are almost certainly the weakest team to host the tournament in over 30 years, but have the luxury of playing in a group that is not terribly difficult. Both teams will have a good chance to make the quarterfinals, but neither side is favored to do so.
Gabon head coach Gernot Rohr will depend on his four players who play regular first team football in Ligue 1. Strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eric Mouloungui, along with defenders Bruno Ecuele Manga and Moïse Brou are good enough to get into most of the teams in this competition. The same goes for goalkeeper Didier Ovono, who plays for Le Mans in Ligue 2. The midfield is much more thin and will be led by Dinamo Minsk star Bruno Mbanangoye Zita.
Equatorial Guinea do not have quite the same pedigree, with many of their players playing in the third and fourth divisions of Spanish football. Their captain, Bodipo, is a striker with La Liga experience who currently plays for Segunda side Deportivo La Coruña. Another one of their strikers, Balboa, plays for Beira-Mar in the Portuguese Liga. That about does it for high-level experience in their side. The second best team in Group A, Zambia, is not as strong as either Morocco or Tunisia, but they are certainly more talented than Equatorial Guinea.
The co-hosts appear to be in serious trouble, but it's always tough to count out home sides.
Predictions: Both teams eliminated in the group stage, finishing third in their respective groups.