Relief and atmosphere as Cameroon open Africa Cup of Nations in style | Africa Cup of Nations 2022
IIt was two and a half years later than expected, but few in YaoundÃ© would be bothered by it. The Cameroonian hosts suffered an early setback, but thanks to two penalties from their captain, Vincent Aboubakar, they maintained an undefeated home record in competitive matches dating back to 1973 and started their Nations Cup campaign with a victory.
It is not only the result that should encourage Portuguese coach of Cameroon, Toni ConceiÃ§Ã£o. Aboubakar, who stole the winner in the final five years ago when Cameroon won their fifth title, has looked lively throughout. AndrÃ©-Frank Zamba Anguissa controlled the tempo from the back of the midfielder. And, perhaps most importantly, aside from the error in judgment which cost the goal, Andre Onana impressed in the goal in just his fifth game since returning from a drug ban (in which he appears to have was deeply unhappy, mistaking a diuretic that had been prescribed to his wife for paracetamol), achieving a superb reflex blocking early in the second half.
While there was relief about Cameroon’s return, there was also relief that the game was going at all, and that he was able to do so in front of relatively well-populated stands. A problem repeated in recent Nations Cups has been the almost empty stadiums for matches not involving the hosts. There are many reasons for this, from high ticket prices to inaccessible stadiums, but the most important tends to be the lack of a match culture.
Football, for many, is a sport consumed on television and experience suggests that fans who are used to watching the Premier League or the Champions League at home or at a local bar tend not to change. their habits simply because Ethiopia faces Cape Verde as a couple. miles down the road.
But Cameroon has a match culture, and the crowds there were excellent for both the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2016 and the African Nations Championship, the tournament for national players, in 2020. The restrictions of Covid mean capacity is limited to 80% capacity for matches featuring Cameroon and 60% for all other matches, but the mood for Sunday’s opening was vibrant.
There is a clear sense of pride that Cameroon is finally hosting the Nations Cup again. It has been 50 years since Cameroon hosted the tournament, when Congo, after beating the hosts in the semi-final, beat Mali in the final. This is a very different competition: it only included eight teams and only six players were in European clubs (five in France plus Julien Kialunda from Zaire to Anderlecht). There are now 24 finalists and 404 players based at European clubs as well as others in the United States, China, South Korea, India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Africa has become a major exporter of talent, which brings both advantages, as many play at the highest level and even those who are not know a range of styles and environments, and challenges, especially when trying to schedule the tournament. . And despite all the complaints from European clubs about their players going to Cameroon, it should be borne in mind that the vast majority are coming, which was not always the case.
The extended group stage may seem bloated with six groups of four filtering down to the bottom 16, but, as with the Euro, it’s more a question of format than quality. There can be frustration that no African team has yet made it past the World Cup quarter-finals (in 1972 only two African nations had competed in a World Cup, and that would be in 1978 before only one wins a game), but while development may have stalled at the high end, where there has been progress is in the middle class.
This includes Burkina Faso, 2013 Nations Cup runners-up. They struggled to miss the March qualifying play-offs for the World Cup, ending their group undefeated but two points behind champion Algeria. Africa in title, but it is a brilliant young team which has all the chances of reaching the World Cup 2026. Cup, whose expansion means that there will be nine African qualifiers.
Here, despite fanciful talks about Kamou Malo’s daring 2-4-3-1 system (i.e. 4-2-3-1 with full-backs attacking spasmodically), Burkina Faso has largely fallen behind. sitting deep, sought to absorb the pressure and hit at the break. . They had probably been the most dangerous team when Gustavo SangarÃ© took advantage of Onana’s error in judgment to put them forward with an airborne volley. But two crazy challenges in the area, the first from Bertrand TraorÃ© from Aston Villa, the second from Issoufou Dayo, offered Cameroon a pair of penalties before half-time, both transformed by Aboubakar.
It eased the nerves at home and Cameroon can already start to rejoice in the round of 16. Burkina Faso, meanwhile, have shown enough to suggest they should advance to the round of 16 as well.