The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have been crowned Africa’s best national team after defeated the highly favoured Egyptians 2-1 in an action-packed 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final in Libreville on Sunday night.
The Central African nation shrugged off a difficult preparation for the AFCON, with numerous stars such as Andre Onana of Ajax, Nancy’s Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, West Brom’s Allan Nyom, Maxime Poundje of Bordeaux, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa of Marsaille and Lille’s Ibrahim Amadou choosing not to feature for the national team, opting to stay with their club sides and ignore the calls of coach Hugo Broos. Liverpool’s Joel Matip also turned down a call-up, suggesting that he had retired from the national team.
Despite those early challenges, a compact and determined outfit took the pitch throughout the AFCON, making a name for themselves as they continued to reach beyond the limits pundits and fans placed on them at each stage.
And finally, they managed to beat the Pharaohs, a side that have remained unbeaten in AFCON finals since 2004.
Things did not look great for the eventual winners early on, however, as Egypt took the lead in the first half through a wonderful strike from Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny from a tight angle.
Broos’ substitutes would be the heroes on the night for Cameroon, with goals from Nicolas N’Koulou and Vincent Aboubakar earning them their fifth African title, now only two away from the all-time record held by their opponents on the night.
Under Broos the Indomitable Lions have gained massive amounts of confidence.
In the first half Adolphe Teikeu was injured and had to be replaced by N’Koulou, which proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the experienced substitute leaped highest just before the hour mark to meet a wonderful cross from skipper Benjamin Moukandjo and equalise with a well-timed header.
Cameroon’s efforts appeared to have been enough to force extra time, but with end to end play continuing on both sides the underdogs found a decisive breakthrough in the 88th minute as Aboubakar masterfully controlled a long ball before chipping it over the head of a defender and volleying to beat 44-year-old Egyptian legend Essam El Hadary for the winning goal that decided the 2017 AFCON title.
The victory means that Cameroon will represent Africa at the FIFA Confederations Cup later this year in Russia. Under Broos the Indomitable Lions have gained massive amounts of confidence and a team spirit that has been missing from most Cameroon squads in recent memory.
It will be interesting to see what they are capable of in Russia at the next World Cup
Cameroon have been the big winners over the last three weeks of competition, but the big losers will most certainly be the players who turned down international duty with their now champion national team.
If Cameroon are able to keep Broos at the helm to continue nurturing this impressive squad over the next year and a half, it will be interesting to see what they are capable of in Russia at the next World Cup. They should certainly give a good account of themselves in June next year, but they should use the opportunity they will have at the Confederations Cup to prepare for what is to come in 2018.