ISMAILIA, Egypt (REUTERS) - Five-times winners and holders Cameroon put a pre-tournament pay dispute behind them to beat rank outsiders Guinea Bissau 2-0 in their opening match at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday (June 25).
The Indomitable Lions took more than an hour to break down stubborn resistance before Yaya Banana and substitute Stephane Bahoken scored in a three-minute spell to give Clarence Seedorf's side a winning start in Group F.
Banana headed in at the far post from a corner in the 66th minute before Bahoken, who only entered the pitch one minute earlier, reacted quickly to turn the ball in after it rebounded to him.
Cameroon's players refused to board their flight for Egypt due to a dispute over bonuses last Thursday and eventually travelled the following day despite saying they were still not satisfied..
Cameroon's Ministry of Sports said the players had each been paid a bonus of 20 million CFA francs (S$47,000) while a source at Cameroon's soccer federation said the players had asked for twice that. The players said in a statement they were not satisfied but would travel anyway.
Pay disputes before major competitions are not unusual for African soccer federations who often do not have sufficient resources to pay their players high sums.
Cameroon dominated the first half but found it difficult to find a way past the Guinea Bissau defence and were not helped by wayward finishing from Christian Bassogog.
He fired wide after escaping the defence in the seventh minute and miscued specularly after Karl Toko pulled the ball back from the byline to leave him with an open goal just after the half hour.
Cameroon turned the screw after halftime, creating a series of chances, although they also survived a couple of scares.
Goalkeeper Andre Onana kicked a clearance straight at Frederic Mendy but it rebounded wide and Guinea Bissau, who made their debut at the tournament in Gabon two years ago, went agonisingly close when Sori Mane's long-range shot was centimetres over.
The deadlock was finally broken when Guinea Bissau goalkeeper Jonas Mendes was caught in no-man's land at a corner and Banana headed in at the far post.
The second quickly followed as Ambroise Oyongo's cross was headed away by Rudinilson Silva but bounced off Mane and went straight to Bahoken who turned it into the net from six metres.
Piqueti Silva headed against the post for Guinea Bissau as they again went close to getting on the scoresheet.
Ghana were facing Benin in the same group later on Tuesday.