'A great beginning'
Cameroon coach Broos predicts bright future for his young side after ANC victory
Cameroon celebrated the most improbable of victories at the African Nations Cup (ANC) yesterday morning (Singapore time) which coach Hugo Broos hoped would pave the way towards a bright future for his team.
The Indomitable Lions showed remarkable character to come from behind and beat Egypt 2-1 in a brilliant game at the Stade de l'Amitie in Libreville, with Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar scoring to spark wild celebrations.
It was the first time a team had come from behind to win the final since 1994 and it was a first continental title for Cameroon since 2002, their fifth in total.
The triumph, witnessed by a crowd in the Gabonese capital made up of a majority of Cameroonians, completed a remarkable journey for a side who had been written off before the tournament.
Eight players, notably Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Schalke striker Eric Choupo-Moting, had refused call-ups to the squad, leaving Broos to work with a young and inexperienced side.
That team had already eliminated hosts Gabon, much-fancied Senegal and Ghana en route to the tournament finale, where they claimed Cameroon's first win against Egypt in an ANC final at the third attempt.
"It's true that when I came to Cameroon nearly a year ago, I found a group of players who were old, not motivated, so I had to change that," Broos said.
"The players were not coming to play for Cameroon, they were going because they had to, because the coach asked them to come.
"So I brought in some new young players and we started working. We did a good job and today we have a team.
"We are still not on the highest level. We need to be much better, but it's already a great beginning.
"I am very happy that we won the African Nations Cup today and I am happy for the players - this is not a group of football players, they are a group of friends."
Broos' man management has been remarkable and, yesterday morning, it was notable that two substitutes scored the goals.
Lyon defender Nkoulou started only once during the tournament and came on as a first-half replacement for the injured Adolphe Teikeu.
BROOS THE MAGICIAN
Aboubakar, the powerful centre forward currently playing for Besiktas in Turkey, also started only one game in Gabon, but he had scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Senegal in the last eight and his winner in the final was stunning.
Defender Michael Ngadeu, one of the stars of Cameroon's run, heaped praise on his Belgian coach, under whom the Indomitable Lions have been beaten just once since his appointment last year.
"He is a magician. The team have been reborn under him," said the Slavia Prague defender, who scored the opener in the semi-finals against Ghana.
"A lot of them didn't believe in him, I'll admit. A lot of Cameroonians criticised him.
"But, today, he is the hero. He should get a medal for what he has done."
Egypt's defeat extended coach Hector Cuper's miserable record, having lost five cup finals during his managerial career.
"It's one more for me, but the point is that I wanted to win this one," said the 61-year-old Argentinian.
"The sadness I have isn't because I lost another final, it's because there was so much hope, especially among Egyptians.
"I'm sorry that we couldn't give happiness to Egyptians because I imagine that there was a lot of expectation among them."
Cameroon were the first African nation to make a major impression at the World Cup in 1990 and, for a long time, were the leading footballing force on the continent, but those days had seemed behind them following recent struggles.
Their last ANC final appearance had been in 2008, when a side featuring Samuel Eto'o lost 1-0 to Egypt in Ghana.
Eto'o, now 35, was among the crowd in Libreville yesterday morning and later tweeted: "Champions of Africa!! Today the Cup of Nations, tomorrow the Confed Cup!!!"
Cameroon will now represent Africa at the Confederations Cup in Russia in June, where they will be in a group with Chile, Australia and world champions Germany.
They have a crucial double-header with Nigeria to come in August and September as they look to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and they will also host the next ANC in 2019. - WIRE SERVICES