Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Cameroon Coach Hugo Broos Vindicated

Cameroon ended their 15-year wait for a Nations Cup soccer title when they came from behind to beat Egypt 2-1 on Sunday, a success that vindicated coach Hugo Broos’ decision to overhaul the Central African nation’s squad.

The Belgian has endured a testing relationship with local media since being appointed in February last year, receiving criticism for axing some of the team’s experienced campaigners and placing his faith in lesser known players.

However, Broos was rewarded for his bravery as his revamped squad secured the trophy when substitute Vincent Aboubakar scored a superb late winner after Nicolas Nkoulou’s header on the hour cancelled out Mohamed Elneny’s opener for Egypt.

“When I came to Cameroon a year ago, I found a group of players that were old and unmotivated,” Broos told reporters.

“I had to change that.”

“Players were coming to play without enthusiasm, not to play for the national team but because they had to, because the coach invited them,” he added.

“So I changed the team a bit, brought some new young players in and I think it’s worked.”

Egypt were able to call upon the likes of experienced duo Ahmed Fathi and keeper Essam El Hadary, who have seven Nations Cup titles between them, while for Cameroon only Nkoulou had played in a Nations Cup knockout match before this campaign.

In the absence of key figures such as Joel Matip, Aurelien Chedjou and Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, youngsters Christian Bassogog and Fabrice Ondoa along with influential centre-back Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui have proved up to the task.

“Taking revenge on journalists is the most stupid thing a coach can do,” Broos added, when asked whether he was glad to have proved the local media wrong.

“I work to get results, and I’m extremely happy to have won the Nations Cup.

“This is a good beginning,” he said.

“I have no problems with the press criticising my players, but I just ask that it’s fair and that they’re objective. I hope that now we’ve won the cup, our relationship with the media will improve.”

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 prior to the tournament.

Eight players, notably the Liverpool defender Joel Matip and the 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 the hosts Gabon, much-fancied Senegal and Ghana en route to the tournament finale, where they claimed Cameroon’s first win against Egypt in a Cup of Nations final at the third attempt.

“I brought in some new young players and we started working. We did a good job and now today we have a team,” said Broos after Sunday’s match.

His man management has been remarkable and on Sunday it was notable that two substitutes scored the goals.

Nkoulou, the Lyon defender, started only once during the tournament and came on as a first-half replacement for the injured Adolphe Teikeu. 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.

“It is the best way to win a final. I think we took a bit of a blow to the back of the head in the first half but the substitutions changed the match in the second half,” said the forward Clinton N’Jie.

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 has been reborn under him,” said the Slavia Prague defender, who scored the opener in the semi-final against Ghana.

Cameroon were the first African nation to make a major impression at the World Cup 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 Cup of Nations final appearance had been in 2008, when a side featuring Samuel Eto’o lost 1-0 to Egypt in Accra, Ghana.

Eto’o, now 35, was among the crowd in Libreville on Sunday 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 Cup of Nations in 2019.
Cameroon players run celebrating with the trophy after winning the African Cup of Nations final soccer match between Egypt and Cameroon at the Stade de l’Amitie, in Libreville, Gabon, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. Cameroon won 2-1. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
“We are still not on the highest level. We need to be much better, but it’s already a great beginning,” said Broos. The Herald


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