At the start of Africa’s continental show piece, very few people fancied the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to go far in the competition, but as usual the beautiful game has delivered on its famed unpredictability.
Cameroon, a team devoid of eight of their best players after they refused call ups to the Nations Cup, have beaten record seven-times champions Egypt 2-1 in the final in Gabon.
The Indomitable Lions achieved the near impossible thanks to a stunning individual goal from Vincent Aboubakar two minutes from time, the bulky striker chesting the ball down, flicking it over a defender and burying a volley into the corner of the net.
Two substitutes, Nicolas Nkoulou and Aboubakar, had turned the game around in the second half after Mohamed Elneny’s opener for Egypt midway through the first period.
It is Cameroon’s fifth Nations Cup title and easily the most unexpected. The team and coach Hugo Broos had also been at war with their federation over bonuses during the tournament, never mind having to cope with missing over half a team.
” I brought in some new young players and we started working. We did a good job and now today we have a team. I am very happy that we won the Cup of Nations today and I am happy for the players — this is not a group of football players, they are a group of friends.”
Egypt coach Hector Cuper was gracious in defeat, the latest in a long line in finals for the Argentine.
“Cameroon deserved to win. I have deep sorrow for my players but it was too much for them, they were too tired. For myself, losing another final, I don’t want to sayI’m getting used to it”
The fans of the Indomitable Lions, who vastly outnumbered a small pocket of Pharaohs supporters, showed their teeth by booing the names of the Egypt players as they were read out.
Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny had given Egypt the lead midway through the first half and Egypt looked to be on course to win an unrivalled eighth Cup of Nations crown in their first appearance at the tournament since 2010.
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But Nicolas Nkoulou, who had come off the bench in the first half, headed in the equalizer just before the hour mark and fellow substitute Aboubakar slammed in the winner in the 88th minute.
Egypt have been derided at times for a defensive approach under Cuper, but they played their part in this rarest of things, a genuinely entertaining final.