Afcon 2017: Unfavoured, unliked, unbelievable Cameroon seal fifth title in fine fashion

Heading into the tournament, Cameroon weren’t even underdogs: they weren’t given a hope in hell. But the squad that was considered the weakest ever Indomitable Lions side to go to an Africa Cup of Nations overcame all the odds under the tutelage of a coach who didn’t even make the original five-man shortlist for the job.

It was the final that nobody would have predicted and the champions nobody saw coming. Cameroon claimed a 2-1 win over Egypt on Sunday night to claim their fifth Africa Cup of Nations after a tournament which has been defined by them defying expectation.

In a rather frenetic match, an inexperienced Indomitable Lions side pipped veterans Egypt as they scripted the final chapter in what has been a tremendous journey. Egypt were unbeaten in Afcon for 13 years and had not conceded two goals in any match since November 2014. Until now.

On paper, Egypt and Cameroon could not be more different. In goal, Egypt’s 44-year old Essam El-Hadary started playing football before Cameroon’s 21-year-old Fabrice Ondoa was even born. Egypt had won seven titles, their most recent victory coming in 2010. Cameroon have won four, their last victory coming in 2002. The Indomitable Lions had leaked goals in the group stages while the Pharaohs had not conceded until the semis. Egypt had not lost a final of the competition since 1962. Cameroon lost to Egypt the last time the two met in such a clash.

In the end, the stats meant little and it was Cameroon’s persistent annoyance that saw Egypt run out of steam in a fraught second half.

While Leicester City became a once-in-lifetime fairy tale in the English Premier League, the Africa Cup of Nations seems to deliver remarkable stories year after year. This is the tournament where magic happens and nothing has been more magical than Cameroon’s journey to the final.

Nobody would have given the Indomitable Lions a chance of making it through their group at the start of the tournament. Yet they did and they beat favourites Senegal and Ghana on their way there.

Despite a solid record heading into the tournament (they’d lost just once in 2016), Cameroon weren’t even considered underdogs, they were no-hopers. The squad they had cobbled together for the continental showpiece was beset with high-profile withdrawals and they had a coach who had never been in charge of a national side before.

Coach Hugo Broos, who took over in the middle of the qualifying campaign for this tournament, had a fairly impressive CV from his time coaching in Belgium, but at the time of applying for the job, he had been out of work for a year. But Broos wasn’t handpicked for the gig – in fact, he wasn’t even on the original five-man shortlist. Instead, he saw the job advertised online and somehow managed to convince the folks at the top that he was the right man for the job.

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By Antoinette Mueller

Credit picture: Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images