Before the round of 16 against Comoros on Monday, the former striker explains why he believes Cameroon is capable of going far in this competition.
Cameroon finished the first round unbeaten. What do you think about your former team’s three games?
This team has fulfilled its mission by qualifying. It’s not exciting, but it’s good to see. I wasn’t bored, and what they showed in the first round is very encouraging. There is a lot of desire and determination in this team, and a real cohesion. In the first two matches, against Burkina Faso (2-1) and Ethiopia (4-1), the team was quickly trailing and never panicked.
You can feel that the players like to play together, that they have a common goal, to go as far as possible. And with this attitude, the Lions have the support of the public, who believe in them.
This was not obvious, however, a few days before the start of the finals: many Cameroonians said they did not believe in the chances of victory of their national team …
(Laughs) Yes, this is Cameroon in all its glory. If, for example, Cameroon is invited to participate in a tournament with France, Belgium and Brazil, Cameroonians will say they have no chance. And the day the tournament starts, they will tell you again that they will win!
There was a kind of mistrust before the CAN because the performances were not always convincing. The coach, the Portuguese Toni Conceicao, was criticised because people didn’t always understand his system of play. We don’t always understand it, but the results are there, and that’s the main thing.
Since he was appointed at the end of 2019, even if everything has not been perfect, the balance sheet is positive. It may be said that he doesn’t have much charisma, etc., but for the moment, he has the results with him. And he has the intelligence to involve a lot of players, by making the necessary changes. And to go far in a major competition, all the players must be involved, because there may be injuries, suspensions, cases of Covid, fatigue.
Do you feel a lot of enthusiasm around the Lions?
Cameroonians appreciate what they have seen since the beginning of the CAN. The qualification for the last of the World Cup qualifiers, last November after the victory against Ivory Coast (1-0) had already had a lot of impact. People know that Cameroon is not necessarily the best team in the tournament, but that it can compete with the other favourites Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Morocco.
It is often said that to go far in a tournament, you need a good goalkeeper and a real striker…
And this is the case for Cameroon! André Onana, our goalkeeper, made a mistake in the first match that cost us a goal, but since then he has been very good.
As for Vincent Aboubakar, he has already scored five goals in three matches, and I think that few players in the history of the CAN have managed such a performance. It is a real asset to have such a successful striker.
There are other players who have shown interesting things, like the defender Nouhou Tolo. I expect more from André Zambo Anguissa in the middle, because he has a great potential and he can bring more.
Cameroon will face the Comoros on Monday, are they are obviously the favourites. Is this the ideal round of 16, at least on paper?
The Comoros will have nothing to lose, no pressure, and anything that happens after they qualify will be a bonus.
It’s their first finals, they beat Ghana (3-2), they have already succeeded in qualifying for the CAN. They are not the team that made the best impression in the first round, and this is not what was expected of them. The players are doing what they know how to do, their record is respectable, and we must take this team seriously and respect them.
But if Cameroon want to have ambitions, they must eliminate the Comoros. The Lions could have faced a stronger opponent, so they will have to confirm their status as favourites.
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