This was the stuff of footballing fantasy.
Buoyed by their legends Samuel Eto’o and Roger Milla who watched the action from the comfort of the VIP enclosure, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon last night turned on a vintage second half display to come from behind and win their fifth Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title in a scintillating performance after seeing off the Pharaohs of Egypt 2-1.
In a match monitored through Supersport channel 226, the entertainment was compelling and the drama ceaseless as action catapulted from end to end in the Gabonese capital of Libreville and the Cameroonians—who are Flames’ Group B opponents in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers—could not be blamed if they felt like flying after the final whistle.
It really did not matter that they were without their world-class stars such as Joel Matip, Eric Chuopo-Moting and Nyom, they simply gave out something extra.
There were only two minutes left when Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar flicked the ball over a defender’s head before firing in late winner past helpless Egypt goalkeeper Essam el Hadary—it was game over!
It came as no miracle, no need for powers of divination for burly forward to provide the final flourish.
Flames captain Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava—who followed the proceedings on TV from Durban, South Africa, hailed Cameroon for their fighting spirit.
“Even when they were a goal down at half time, they fought every inch of the way until literally the last minute. Perhaps that is one thing we can learn from them.
“And as we prepare for the qualifiers, we should expect a rough ride, but that doesn’t mean we should give up just because we are up against the African champions, instead it should act as a source of motivation that this could be our turning point,” he said.
The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute through Elneny. The beauty of it, lay in the angle—difficult by normal circumstances but he defied the acute angle.
After receiving a sweet pass from Muhammad Salah and in a flash, he beat his marker and as the Cameroonian defenders were anticipating a square ball, with magnificent poise Elneny sent a right foot dipping volley past the unsuspecting Cameroonian goaltender, it was a beautiful goal worth the occasion that is for sure.
But there was renewed purpose from the Indomitable Lions in the second half and it bore fruits in the 59th minute when Nicolas N’koulou headed home the equaliser
Striker Benjamin Moukandjo curled in a cross and N’koulou floated in the air, his imposing frame defying gravity, his gaze fixed at the ball as it spun at him with pace and then, his aerial strength powered him past the human barrier to nod the ball home—it was to be the perfect tonic for the Indomitable Lions’ comeback.
Cameroon will cart home $4 million (K3 billion) while Egypt will get $2 million (K1.5 billion).n