Fighter Fai: Time to bring back glory days

Come from be­hind win over Wild Dogs has Cameroon in­spired to chase after Afcon glory

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

CAMEROON LEFT Stade de l’Ami­tie on Wed­nes­day night with one of their play­ers loudly play­ing a mod­ern boomblaster that didn’t ex­ist the last time the In­domitable Lions won a match at the Africa Cup of Na­tions. The four-time Africa cham­pi­ons’ 2-1 win over Guinea-Bis­sau was their first in the con­ti­nen­tal show­piece since 2010.

The fact that the vic­tory was against min­nows, who made Cameroon sweat after tak­ing the lead with a spec­tac­u­lar in­di­vid­ual goal by Pi­queti, wasn’t an is­sue for them. What counted was that they had jumped over that hur­dle to put them­selves in a com­fort­able po­si­tion to make it to the knock­out stage from Group A. Cameroon sit at the top with four points, fol­lowed by Burkina Faso and hosts Gabon, who are both on two points and two goals while the Wild Dogs are in last place.

Hugo Broos’ heart was pushed to the lim­its by Cameroon. The Bel­gian coach paced fran­ti­cally on the side­lines as he watched his team be­ing out­played by a na­tion mak­ing their de­but in the tour­na­ment. But this didn’t tor­ture Broos as much as as­sem­bling the 23-man squad Cameroon came with here after eight play­ers, in­clud­ing Joel Matip and Eric Choupo-Mot­ing, snubbed them. Broos hasn’t used their ab­sence as an ex­cuseat this Afcon. He has de­manded that this group make their coun­try proud.

“He (Broos) was very hard on us at half-tme (when we were trail­ing) be­cause we didn’t do what he told us to do,” Cameroon de­fender Collins Fai said. “He came to the dress­ing room and put us in or­der. He was adamant as to what we needed to do, that we didn’t do in the first half. We have to go to the next stage of the tour­na­ment and if we want to chal­lenge for this cup, that means pick­ing up points in our group first. We will meet the best teams later in the tour­na­ment so com­ing up against the hosts in our next game will pre­pare us well for that.”

The chaos that sur­rounded Cameroon’s build-up to the tour­na­ment has united this group that made the cut. They are driven to show that they can do the job bet­ter than those eight play­ers who showed their coun­try the mid­dle fin­ger. The In­domitable Lions have one foot in the knock­out stage. A win over Gabon on Sun­day will see them top the group. Should they do that, they will meet the run­ners up of Group B – com­pris­ing Sene­gal, Tu­nisia and Zim­babwe – here on Sun­day next week.

This gen­er­a­tion doesn’t have the swag­ger of past Cameroon side, but they also don’t have the egos of past sides that have hurt the once-pow­er­ful na­tion to a point that they haven’t been African cham­pi­ons in 15 years.

“This win is a huge boost for us be­cause it has been seven years since the last time Cameroon won a match in the Africa Cup of Na­tions,” Fai said. “Win­ning this game and the fight­ing spirit we showed is a good mo­ti­va­tion for us. We have to bring back the glory days and make our names. We need to fight for the coun­try. We are a solid group.” Njab­ulo Ngidi is in Gabon cour­tesy of Su­per­Sport

PIC­TURE: AP

THUMBS-UP: Cameroon’s Sebastien Clovis Saini, right, celebrates after scor­ing against Guinea Bis­sau dur­ing their Africa Cup of Na­tions Group A match at the Stade de l’Ami­tie, in Libreville, Gabon on Wed­nes­day.

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