Mario Lemina: France U20 World Cup winner chooses Gabon

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Mario Lemina
Mario Lemina could be playing for Gabon when they host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

France Under-20 World Cup winner Mario Lemina has pledged his international allegiance to Gabon.

In January Lemina rejected a call-up to Gabon's 2015 Africa Cup of Nations squad in the hope he would be selected to play for France instead.

But the 22-year-old midfielder, who joined Juventus on a season-long loan on 31 August, has now announced his commitment to the Panthers.

"I chose Gabon, and I am very happy about it," he told France's RMC Radio.

"I have signed all the important papers and agreed with the federation.

"I am waiting for my first game with the national team, which had to be postponed as I was in the process of moving to Juventus.

"They understood, and I hope I will be able to play in Gabon's next match."

Under Fifa rules, Lemina is free to switch because he has not yet played for a country's senior national team.

Gabon will host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations - only five years after they were co-hosts with Equatorial Guinea.

Lemina began his professional career at Lorient and spent eight years at the French club.

He left Lorient and signed a five-year deal with Marseille in August 2013 and scored twice in 50 appearances for the club before switching to Italian giants Juventus on loan with an option to buy.