Cameroon dreams of winning the title at home at the start of the Nations Cup | Sports
YAOUNDÃ (Cameroon) Jan 9 – Fifty years after the last African Cup of Nations, Cameroon launches its flagship continental project today with the aim of winning a sixth title while hoping the specter of the coronavirus does not overshadow the tournament.
Cameroon, who play Burkina Faso in the 2013 Group A opening match at the huge new 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, knows expectations are high for the Indomitable Lions.
However, you will have to compete with the reigning champions Algeria, the Senegal of Sadio Mane and the Egypt of Mohamed Salah.
Cameroon was originally scheduled to host 2019 but was banned from the tournament due to delays in preparing the tournament, with Egypt taking the lead. The 33rd Cup of Nations was then postponed last year due to the pandemic.
The Central African country of 27 million people was therefore determined to continue the competition after reports last month that leading European clubs wanted to postpone it again due to Covid concerns.
This time it goes on and Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao is well aware of the pressure on his side.
“They put that on the table when I signed my contract: at least reach the final, do whatever it takes to win it,” Conceicao told AFP.
âWe believe that the people and history of Cameroon commit us to this. It sets the bar pretty high, but we believe we can achieve those goals. “
“We have a lot of weight on our shoulders,” added the Portuguese.
African football officials have set strict Covid-19 rules to keep the competition from becoming a super-spread event that teams have to play even when only 11 players are available.
Gabon star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was forced to isolate himself at his hotel on Thursday after testing positive, while Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked national team, traveled to Cameroon without three members of his squad for the same reason.
Senegal then let key defender Kalidou Koulibaly test positive shortly after arriving.
Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traore described the test procedures as a “scandal” after at least four members of the squad and coach Kamou Malo tested positive in the run-up to today’s opening game.
“It’s a scandal, we can’t do without first-team players 24 hours before the game,” said Traore.
“The authorities have to check the organization.”
However, Covid is far from the only concern in a country grappling with conflict in the English-speaking West.
The Group F games with Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia take place in Limbe, a coastal town near Mount Cameroon that is also a focal point of separatist unrest.
Jihadist robbers are also a problem in the north, at least beyond the town of Garoua, where Salahs Egypt and Nigeria will play group matches.
Due to the health crisis, organizers have capped the audience limit to 60 percent of capacity, or 80 percent if the hosts are playing.
Viewers must be vaccinated and test negative, but only six percent of the adult population are vaccinated.
Cameroon is football crazy though, and many fans are bound to attend matches in a country that hosted the Nations Cup only once in 1972 when there were only eight participants.
However, the nation that gave the world players like Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o – the latter now president of the Cameroonian Football Association – no longer has the same level of stardust.
Debut in Comoros, Gambia
You have Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, but the continent’s true superstars will be elsewhere.
Senegal has not only Liverpool striker Mane, but also Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Defending champions Algeria, unbeaten in 33 competitive matches, will be led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, while Morocco will face PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi and Seville goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, among others.
Nigeria, meanwhile, are crossing the border without Napoli strikers Victor Osimhen or Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, whose club said they were notified of his call-up too late.
In any case, this Cup of Nations is not just about the big names, because Gambia, number 148 in the world rankings, and the island state of Comoros in the Indian Ocean are making their debut. – AFP