IT IS PAYBACK TIME: Cameroon ready to revenge 2008 loss against Egypt
FOOTBALL By SAMMY KITULA, IN LIBREVILLE, GABON | February 5th 2017
For the eighth time in the competition’s history, tonight’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final starting at 10pm will be the fiery North versus West contest.
Seven-time Africa champions Egypt will be chasing an unprecedented eighth title, but face the threat of a hungry Cameroon; The Indomitable Lions.
In a replay of the 2008 final, tonight’s match inside the magnificent 35,000-seater Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville, will bring down curtains on the 23-day Africa’s most prestigious football tournament.
It has been stretched, but extraordinary path for both finalists and tonight’s match has all elements of a real Afcon final.
And since they lost 1-0 to Egypt in that 2008 final, Cameroon (winners of four titles) have never come close again.
Heading to this epic match, both teams are dangling the favourite’s tag. For the Egyptians, it will be their eighth appearance and Cameroon’s sixth.
Cameroon have come out as a well-organised and efficient side. At times, they can be accused of being somewhat unexciting, that is not in doubt, but in crucial times, they hunt in a pride. They are highly regimented and when they strike, they do so meticulously like the true Indomitable Lions they are.
Truth be said; this is not the best Cameroonian side to ever take part in the Africa Cup of Nations. They have been second-hand in most departments and they know it too. It is obvious they lack the stoic defending of the likes of Rigobert Song.
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Yes, they cannot deliver defence-splitting passes as did midfielders the late Marc-Vivien Foe and Salomon Olembe. Certainly, they are yet to find a true replacement for Patrick Mboma, or their all-time leading scorer, Samuel Eto’o.
But there is great solidarity in the team and if there is a time they required such togetherness, then it must be tonight.
“Egypt is a big team, but we are determined to win. Few people believed in us, but we are playing in the final,” said defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui.
Fair enough, they don’t hog the same limelight as their famed seniors, but the current Indomitable Lions pride has some noticeable players, whose legs have walked them into tonight’s final.
With goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, Cameroon have been in safe hands. He, however, does not enjoy high-profile football like most of his peers as he warms the bench most of the time at Seville ‘B’ team in Spain, but that has not shown in Ondoa’s sterling performance.
His memorable saves against Gabon and Senegal in a quarter-final shootout have been some of his high moments here.
But they face Egypt; arguably Africa’s greatest side in Afcon history. The Pharaohs have not been at their best really, but their defence, which has conceded just once in open play, remains their cornerstone.
But there is a small problem though. Their coach Hector Cuper has not won in three major finals.
“Yes, I have not been lucky in finals. I hope it will be different on Sunday,” said the former Real Mallorca and Valencia manager.
Memorable Africa Cup of Nations finals
There have been 28 Africa Cup of Nations finals and AFP Sport selects five of the most memorable:
Ethiopia 4 Egypt 2
The Cup of Nations final with the most goals, and plenty of excitement as hosts Ethiopia equalised twice against title-holders Egypt before scoring two extra-time goals. Mengistu Worku was the Ethiopian hero before a 30,000 crowd crammed into the Haile Selassie Stadium in Addis Ababa.
Congo Brazzaville 3 Mali 2
Congo scored three goals in seven minutes either side of the hour mark to turn the tide irrevocably in their favour at the Stade Omnipsorts in Yaounde. Mali led 1-0 at half-time in a clash of first-time finalists watched by a 40,000 crowd before Jean-Michel M’Bono equalised and scored again two minutes later.
Nigeria 2 Zambia 1
Zambia reached the final less than a year after 18 of the national squad were killed in a plane crash just off Gabon when en route to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. The fairytale continued as Zambian Elijah Litana netted after only three minutes of a final watched by 25,000 spectators at the Stade El Menzah in Tunis.
South Africa 2 Tunisia 0
Hosts South Africa triumphed in front of a capacity 80,000 crowd in Soweto just four years after returning from an apartheid-induced international wilderness. Then state president Nelson Mandela and the last white ruler of the country, FW de Klerk, saw Bafana Bafana (The Boys) struggle to pierce the Tunisian rearguard. Enter substitute Mark Williams to turn the tide, ending the stalemate eight minutes after coming off the bench and scoring again 120 seconds later.
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