LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Cameroon captain Benjamin Moukandjo said his inexperienced side are relishing their underdog tag ahead of Sunday’s African Nations Cup final and believes the lack of big-name players may give them the edge over seven-time champions Egypt.
Unfancied Cameroon were beset by selection problems before the tournament following the withdrawal of key players including Joel Matip, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Allan Nyom, but have defied expectations to reach their first final since 2008 after beating Ghana 2-0 in their semi-final on Thursday.
With coach Hugo Broos also deciding to axe defenders Aurelien Chedjou and Henri Bedimo, an inexperienced Cameroon side are only one game away from winning their first continental crown since 2002.
”We haven’t been favourites since the beginning of the Nations Cup and that suits us,“ he told Reuters. ”We will take our role of outsiders and we’ll play (the final) like we’ve played the other matches so far.
“In this team, there are only eight players who have competed in a Nations Cup or a World Cup, so it’s a young group, a new group,” he said. “We’re forging our own little pathway, and it’s working.”
In the absence of Cameroon’s more established names, unheralded players have been introduced to the team to great effect.
Defender Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui has scored two key goals including the opener against Ghana, while forward Christian Bassogog, who also found the net in the semi-final, has been one of the tournament’s outstanding players.
The squad’s more recognised names have been used sparingly, with former captain Nicolas Nkoulou dropped to the bench, Vincent Aboubakar playing a peripheral role and Clinton Njie unused since the second group game.
”Against Ghana, we saw (Aboubakar play), a few games ago it was (Nkoulou) who came in and contributed an assist even though he didn’t start,“ Moukandjo continued. ”Every time the coach has called on a player he’s stepped up, and that’s what’s given us strength.
”We have a group that lives together, we have solidarity, we are a family. The fact there’s no one who values himself over the others (has underpinned our success), we’re equals.
“That’s been our method since the beginning, and I hope it lasts,” he concluded. “Whatever happens on Sunday, we’ll have all grown with this Nations Cup.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty