The victory of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the just concluded African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon has thrown into relief the qualification race for the FIFA world cup in 2018.
At first, it seemed things were not going to go as planned for Cameroon as Egypt took the lead with a goal from Arsenal star Mohamed Elneny in the 22nd minute of the final on Sunday. Cameroon made an incredible come back in the second half after a header from the substitute Nicholas Nkoulou put the two teams on level.
In the dying minutes of the game, Vincent Aboubakar pulled off a one-man effort against three Egyptian players to earn Cameroon its second and decisive goal of the game. At the blast of the final whistle Cameroon were champions again after fifteen years in the wilderness of African football.
Cameroon player Bassogog was given the best player of the tournament award after his national team captain Moukandjo had been awarded man of the match.
Many analysts believe that the way the Indomitable Lions won the tournament shows that the team had all the elements of what a standard team should have and that Nigeria may not be home and dry in the race to the World Cup as earlier thought because Cameroon is capable of throwing spanner into the works.
The Super Eagles are billed to clash with the Lions on August 28 for the first leg of their qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the new found resolve and spirit of the Cameroonians could hinder Nigeria’s march to Russia 2018.
Whereas Cameroon, hithertho unfancied, was hardly looked upon as an obstacle to Nigeria’s World Cup dreams pre-AFCON, there is now a sincere sense of all too familiar dread among Nigerians.
“There are many lessons to learn from Cameroon’s victory, and this has to do with the attitude of the players, there was no dull player among the team,” says former Green Eagles player, Felix Owolabi while speaking with sports journalists in Lagos.
“They were very resilient, nothing could distract them unlike the Ghanaians, if you look at the Lions, you can’t single out any player playing otherwise, and they played as a team.
“A typical Cameroon player wants to die for his country when having their jersey on, we need such patriotism from our players, money should stop distracting us,’’ Owolabi said.
Nigeria currently stands pretty at the top of the qualification group after a 100 per cent record in their opening qualifiers, a full four points clear of Cameroon in second-place. However, the rivalry that exists between Nigeria and Cameroon – one in which the Lions have always had the upper hand – and the psychological effect an AFCON win will have on the Cameroonian team when the two meet in August, mean that Cameroon surely will be the favorites.
The Confederations Cup in June will also prepare the Lions with high quality matches ahead of their showdown with Nigeria while it remains to be seen what calibre of matches Gernort Rohr will line up to prepare the Eagles.
Rohr and his charges surely have their work cut out for them and do not have the luxury of resting on the laurels. They would have to come up with a way of finishing the work they have already begun and pick up the much needed 4 points they need to get to Russia.
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