Sebastien Siani of Cameroon celebrates goal with Vincent Aboubakar (behind) during the 2017 African Cup of Nations Finals Afcon football match between Cameroon and Guinea Bissau at the Libreville Stadium in Gabon on 18 January 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Sunday Jan 29, 2017. 12:00
The young Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have fired a serious warning they will push Nigeria for a place at next year’s World Cup after they upstaged AFCON favourites Senegal to reach the last-four in Gabon.
What was crucial was not just the result they achieved on Saturday, but the manner they went about their business.
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World Cup qualifying group leaders Super Eagles of Nigeria will now welcome the Indomitable Lions to Uyo in August with the reverse fixture four days later in Cameroon as the qualifiers for Russia 2018 head to the business end.
These two matches will most certainly determine the team who will win the ticket from a section aptly described as ‘Group of Death’.
Shorn of several of their top stars like Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Allan Nyom from West Bromwich Albion for the AFCON in Gabon, Cameroon have again lived up to their nickname with an indomitable spirit that makes up for the lack of guile and experience they may suffer.
“Cameroon are mentally and physically very strong,” praised former Ghana and Bayern Munich star Samuel Kuffour after the Indomitable Lions dumped Senegal 5-4 on penalties on Saturday night in Franceville.
Their chances now of reaching the championship game in Gabon when they square up with the winners of today’s quarterfinal between Ghana and DR Congo can no longer be dismissed.
Like Cameroon have shown over the years, this younger version of the Indomitable Lions are very organised in defence, working hard for each other to ensure they do not concede goals.
The 21-year-old goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa has risen to the occasion after recent doubts, while Ambroise Onyango from the Major League Soccer (MLS) has improved his ratings with five-star displays as a left fullback who loves to bomb down and join the attack.
This new Cameroon have also retained the bruising style the country have been known for.
Against an equally robust Senegalese side, they gave away 40 fouls and had three players booked, meaning they are ready to put their bodies on the line literally as their more illustrious compatriots have demonstrated for many years now.
Coach Hugo Broos have clearly showed that he will line up the players who will deliver the results and not the big stars.
Therefore forwards Vincent Aboubakar and Clinton N’jie have not been guaranteed first-team places as they have come in and out of the fray in Gabon.
Putting away their chances and not enjoying more of the ball remain big concerns, but you cannot fault their determination and commitment to the cause of the team.
That is what they will bring to Nigeria in August.
Good enough wily Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has analysed several of their matches in Gabon as a television pundit and will be expected to have all the answers to the questions these young but hungry Lions of Cameroon will pose to his team from August 27.