Cameroon’s U-20 team qualified for the final of the African Youth Championships after they beat Egypt 4-2 in post-match penalty kicks in South Africa on Thursday. The Lions will face Nigeria’s Flying Eagles on Sunday to determine who suceeds Ghana as the champions of Africa.
After 120 minutes of tactically intense play, neither Cameroon’s junior Lions nor their Egyptian opponents managed to score a goal thus leaving the semi-final to be decided on a penalty shoot-out. Egypt failed to score their first and second spot-kicks while Cameroon scored four of theirs.
The Egyptians were furious at the referee and his assistants, who ruled on two occasions that Cameroonian players should re-take their shots which had been stopped by Egypt’s goalkeeper. The keeper was adjudged to have stepped forward from his line before Nyantchou and Yaya Banana kicked and missed. Both players scored on their separate second-takes.
Egypt has been Cameroon’s nemesis for years but the cubs’ head coach, Martin Ndtoungou Mpile, had promised to stun the north Africans who had beaten his side thrice in preparatory games ahead of this tournament.
“The Egyptian coach will be surprised on Thursday because we played the test matches without eight of our regular players. He has to know that preparation is one thing and the competition itself is another ball game,” Ndtoungou Mpile said.
Cameroon will be playing the final for the second time in a row. They were finalists in Rwanda in 2009 where they were beaten by Ghana that went on to win the U-20 World Cup.
The Lions will be clashing with opponents they know well – since they beat the Nigerians 1-0 in a group game last week. But the Nigerians have since obtained two victories against the Gambia and Mali (semi-final) on a similar 2-0 score. They have one of the tournament’s best goal scorers -Uche Nwofor – with three goals.
Cameroon, on the other hand, find it hard to score goals. They have scored only three goals since the competition started but they have the meanest defence (just one goal conceded).
Their disciplined, solid and very compact style was on display again in that semi-final against Egypt.
The Egyptians rarely found space between the Cameroonian lines and all 10 outfield Lions fought for every ball – harrying their opponents like Real Madrid did in the first-half of the Copa del Rey final last Wednesday.
Central midfielders Nyantchou and Nkom were bustling with energy and their passing to the wide players was swift. But the final ball to the attackers was usually poor. The strikers Haman and Ohandza took their defensive tasks very seriously but sadly failed to make things work offensively.
Let’s see what happens in the final now. At least, Ndtoungou is on record that he plans to win it.
“We have come here to play. Our first objective of reaching the semi-finals has been achieved. Now we will focus on winning the semis and the finals,” he had told reporters before the match.