Unfancied Cameroon one step from glory

Christian Bassogog celebrating after scoring in the 90th minute to seal the win. Cameroon beat Ghana 2-0 to progress to the Africa Cup of Nations final.
Christian Bassogog celebrating after scoring in the 90th minute to seal the win. Cameroon beat Ghana 2-0 to progress to the Africa Cup of Nations final.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

FRANCEVILLE (Gabon) • A surprise appointment 12 months ago, Cameroon coach Hugo Broos has overcome numerous obstacles and transformed the Indomitable Lions into a team just one match away from winning the Africa Cup of Nations.

Cameroon were dismissed as no-hopers and their squad were arguably the weakest they had ever sent to the tournament.

But, after coming through their group at the expense of hosts Gabon and beating Senegal on penalties in the quarter-finals, the Indomitable Lions beat Ghana 2-0 on Thursday to set up a completely unexpected final against Egypt tomorrow.

"This team came here and nobody believed in them. If you told someone before the tournament we would get to the final they would have laughed, but this for us was a big motivation," said Broos.

Broos has turned around the fortunes of a country that had been a disgrace at the 2014 World Cup and were knocked out of the first round at the last Africa Cup of Nations.

Those early exits eventually led to the sacking of German Volker Finke, and Broos was named as his replacement in February last year.

A former Belgian international who had enjoyed much success as a coach in his homeland, Broos had worked in Greece, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Algeria, but had never managed a national team.

His players are glowing in their praise, citing improved discipline and squad unity.

"I think he has brought a bit more discipline," said winger Edgar Salli. "In football, if you have discipline, everything else follows."

Added full-back Fai Collins: "The coach has given us something extra, given the youngsters confidence to show what we can do.

"He talks about showing determination, about sticking together as a group because there were problems before but I think he has tried to overcome them."

On his part, Broos said: "Maybe you will be surprised but in 29 years as a coach I have never had a group like this.

"They are 23 friends who like to play football and do everything to win the game, so for me it's very easy."

The 64-year-old's focus is now on tomorrow's final, as Cameroon look to win a fifth continental title and their first since 2002.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'Unfancied Cameroon one step from glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe