The Indomitable Lions beat the Stallions 2-1 in the first game of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Yaoundé on Sunday.
By Beng Emmanuel
Host nation Cameroon made the perfect start to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations by beating Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening game of the tournament in a raucous Olembe Sport Complex in Yaoundé.
Skipper Vincent Aboubakar scored two late first half penalties as the Indomitable Lions came from behind to beat the Stallions in a game which involved two VAR interventions.
But it was Burkina Faso who had reasons to celebrate first after they broke the deadlock through Sangare Gustavo who scored the first goal of the 2021 AFCON. However, their hopes to spoil the party for the five time African champions crumbled in the last minutes of the first half against a resilient Cameroonian side constantly roared by their home fans.
It is the second time Cameroon has won the opening game of the Afcon as host. They beat Kenya 2-1 when they last hosted the competition in 1972. It is also their second win against Burkina Faso in the opening game of the Afcon after 1998. In 2017, they settled for a 1-1 draw.
Their win at the 60,000 Olembe Sport Complex-their second after that against Malawi-means they are currently top of group A. Cape Verde and Ethiopia clash in the second game in the same facility.
Cameroon face Ethiopia in the second group A game on January 13, 2022.
A timely fight back to make decent start
Cameroon gave a lot of trouble to Burkina Faso in the opening stages of the first half but struggled to break down their rivals who dealt comfortably with their attacks.
The Indomitable Lions began with some heap of confidence but seemed edgy at some point with inaccurate finishes, mislaid passes with some hesitancy from some players like Nicolas Ngamaleu. The host mustered their first attempt when Vincent Aboubakar curled his shot and went wide over the crossbar. They continued to create chances and almost got their lead when Toko Ekambi rounded the keeper but lacked his usual calmness to hit the target before an empty net.
Despite defending gallantly, Burkina Faso never looked like scoring. Their marksman Bertrand Troare was starved out of service and was a muted force. But his influence was enormous and paid off midway through the first half when Sangare Gustavo tapped-in from his cross at the 24th minute.
It was a well fashioned goal from the 1998 Afcon host from their best moment in the first half. Dayo’s header from a corner kick which was initially cleared on the line by Cameroon and Genk defender Micheal Ngadue but Sangare made no mistake in the follow-up after Andre Onana miscalculated the outing to get hold of the ball.
But suddenly, the games changed around with the Indomitable Lions staging a comeback to level scores and spark them to life. Captain Vincent Aboubakar converted twice within five minutes towards the end of the first half from the spot after his teammates Zambo Anguissa and Noho Ntolo were brought down in the box by Burkina Faso’s captain Traore and their defender.
Cameroon piled more pressure on Burkina Faso in the second half and played with greater maturity. But their assurance almost cost them their lead but Onana atoned for his first half mistake and made a world class.
Coach Antonio Conceicao and his boys responded promptly. Vincent Aboubakar thought he’d capped off a sensational display with a hat-trick from a well-orchestrated counter-attack but his goal was ruled out for offside by the VAR.
The last quarter of the game was intense with both teams creating several goal scoring chances but Cameroon enjoyed the lion’s share. The most interesting came from substitutes Njie Clinton and Zambo Anguissa. Burkina Faso also came close with Bertrand Traore whose two free-kicks caused trouble to the Cameroonians.
The Stallions almost levelled in the dying minutes of the game but lacked the necessary cutting edge and Cameroon failed to take the game beyond reach with a final goal but rather felt comfortable defending their lead.
Cameroon sends message to the World
The 33rd edition of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations began with a spectacular eye catching opening ceremony involving more than five hundred people at the Olembe Sport complex.
There were performances from the group Africa Smile-author of the theme song titled “Fou de Foot” while Congolese music star Fally Ipupa who was guest artist dazzled fans with his hit songs and dance moves.
Before the opening ceremony, the President of the Confederation of African Football Patrice Motsepe heaped praises on the Cameroonian people and its head of State Paul Biya for organising what he believes will be the most exciting competition.