AFCON Cameroon: Can Vincent Aboubakar be a star at home?

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon

By Alexis Billebault
Posted on Monday, 17 January 2022 13:20

Vincent Aboubakar during the Cameroon-Burkina Faso African Cup of Nations match at the Paul Biya stadium on 9 January 2022
Vincent Aboubakar during the Cameroon-Burkina Faso African Cup of Nations match at the Paul Biya stadium on 9 January 2022. ULRIK PEDERSEN/NurPhoto via AFP

Cameroon's striker Vincent Aboubakar, who scored both goals in the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations against Burkina Faso (2-1), does not have the same aura as his illustrious predecessors Milla, Omam-Biyik, Mboma or Eto'o.

It may not seem like much, but scoring two penalties in the same game and in just over five minutes is more complicated than it sounds.

On Sunday 9 January, Vincent Aboubakar’s right foot did not waver in first-half stoppage time to give the Indomitable Lions a definitive lead, beating Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi. The Cameroonian striker had equalised a few minutes earlier and put his team back in front after Gustavo Sangaré had opened the scoring.

Fifth highest scorer in the history of the national team

With this double, Aboubakar, who will turn 30 on 22 January, scored his 28th and 29th goals in 81 appearances, a statistic that makes the player from Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia) the fifth highest scorer in the national team’s history behind Samuel Eto’o (56 goals), François Omam-Biyik (45), Roger Milla (36) and Patrick Mboma (33).

If his popularity among Cameroonian fans has risen after this double placing the five-time African champions in an extremely favourable position before facing Ethiopia on 13 January in Yaounde, Vincent Aboubakar is not adored as some of his predecessors at the top of the Lions’ attack could be.

“I don’t know if he suffers from the comparison, but in Cameroon – which is is also the case in all football countries – we look a lot at the statistics. Aboubakar’s statistics are good, but it’s true that if he is appreciated, paradoxically he doesn’t have a huge aura here”, confirms Patrick Mboma, the former striker of the Lions.

“He has more than 80 caps, he scores goals, he’s a very good player, a boy who doesn’t make noise, respectful, and it’s true that I’m sometimes a little surprised that he’s not more recognized.

Decisive shot in the 2017 CAN final

Vincent Aboubakar, born in Garoua, quickly left Cotonsport, the city club with which he had just won the national championship in 2010, to sign for Valenciennes, in French League 1.

“Everything went very quickly for him, he found himself in L1 when he had not really finished his training,” says Mboma. “The rest of his career has taken him to Lorient, FC Porto, Besiktas Istanbul and since last June to Al-Nassr Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Everywhere he has been, he has scored goals, even though he has had some difficult moments in his career, especially due to a few injuries,” including a knee injury that kept him off the pitch for more than six months, from September 2018 to April 2019 while he was playing for FC Porto.

When Cameroon became African champions again in 2017 in Gabon, 15 years after their last title, Aboubakar was not an indisputable starter in the eyes of Hugo Broos, the Belgian coach of the Indomitable Lions. However, it was he who gave his team the title by scoring in the last seconds against Egypt in the final (2-1). He also scored the decisive penalty in the quarter-final against Senegal (0-0, 5-4).

“He scored the two goals against Burkina Faso. If he scores three or four more, especially if they are decisive, I think he will be completely adored by the fans,” Mboma predicts. “He has always shown his attachment to the team, his involvement. If Cameroon become African champions in Yaoundé and he makes a big contribution, he will have won everything!”

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