Cyril C. NwokejiMonday, February 13, 2017




ours sincerely wishes a rather belated, very happy and prosperous 2017, to my beloved and illustrous readers. May the Almighty God, grant us our collective hearts' desires in 2017 and always, in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!

Yours sincerely, decided to delay the first article of 2017, to enable me watch the 2017 Nations' cup competition, and particularly, observe closely, the performances of the Super Eagles' World cup opponents: Algeria and Cameroun. I must say one learnt a lot not only from Algeria and Cameroun, but also from the other countries that participated in the competition. One comes away with the feeling that soccer standards have generally risen in Africa; even since the last edition of the Nations' cup competition, in 2015. An evidence in support of this belief, is the fact no team lost by a monster score margin. In other words, the difference between the so called stronger teams and the so called weaker teams, was not as big as day and night. That is positive news for soccer development in Africa!

The Algerian national team's performance, was to say the least, disappointing. One would have expected at least a quarter-final appearance, from a team with the reigning African footballer of the year, among other top players. Their overal performance was woeful, in comparison with their expected standard of performance. They were weaker than the Algerian team that played the Super Eagles, in Uyo, during the 2018 World cup qualifier.

The Camerounians surprised all and sundry with their performance; nobody gave them a chance! It was reported that their Belgian trainer, when given a semi-final appearance ultimatum, by his employers, could only vouch for a quarter-final appearance! After the first round of matches, of the eight quarter-finalists, your sincerely, rated them as the sixth best! This was based on their not-so - inspiring first round performance.

A Camerounian friend of mine, who was disappointed, yours sincerely rated their national team so lowly, after the first round of matches, told me to expect surprises from the "Indomitable Lions" of Cameroun, in the subsequent matches. He told me like I was similarly informed, by another Camerounian friend, some years back, that whenever any group of soccer players, were given the Camerounian national team's jerseys, they automatically transformed themselves letterly and figuratively to the "Indomitable Lions," their famed nick name! At first sight, your sincerely, regarded this assertion of the chances of the Camerounians, at the 2017 Nations' cup competition, as somewhat arrogant. How could they perform well one wonderd without eight key players, in a team that even with those eight players, was a far cry from the" Indomitable Lions" of yore ?

Helaas when the knock-out series started, the Camerounian friend of mine, with benefit of hindsight, was proved right. Their first confrontation against the " Lions" of Senegal, was a match, in which yours sincerely gave them no chance. I was cock sure they would lose, to the then most highly rated team in Africa. In the preview to the match, he told me that I would see the difference between the "Lions" of Senegal and the "Indomitable Lions" of Cameroun. He said the Senegalese would do the playing, but his country would eventually win, even with the slightest of margins! He was dead right, as the Camerounians, held their nerves and won the penalty shoot-out series, that was used to break the dead-lock, after a stalemated 120 minutes encounter.

The semi-final encounter against the "Black Stars" of Ghana, was a match yours sincerely was ready to bet his last cent on a certain Ghana victory! Ghana was one of the title contenders. But during the course of the match, the Camerounians, who are usually wont to produce surprises, put up a "five-star" performance, that surprised all and sundry, and won 2-0; and, thus, qualified for the final.

The final match against Egypt, was a match yours sincerely didn't dare bet against the Camerounians. They had surprised every body, to have gotten to the final; and given their penchance for springing up surprises, one didn't dare bet for an Egyptian victory! But I still reasoned that if the rules of logic, were to be followed, the Egyptian national team, deserved to be crowned African champions, since in my considerd opinion, they were the best team of the tournament, going in to the final match.

When the Egyptians attacked at the start of the final match up against the Camerounians, and exposed the weak Camerounian defence, and eventually, got the first goal of the match, yours sincerely, believed not only in an Egyptian victory, but debated within my self with what goal margin, the Egyptians, would achieve the feat. At the start of the second half, and with a cliff hanger one-goal lead, one expected more attacking soccer from the Egyptians, that would finally knock-out the Camerounians, with more goals and ensure victory; but one was rudely surprised when Coach Hector Cuper, chose to guard the one-goal lead, by playing tactical defensive soccer! This is one of the major coaching weaknesses of Coach Cuper. Yous sincerely, considers him a "tactically dogmatic" coach, who hardly changes or adapts his coaching philosophy, regardless of the realities in a match! He no doubt achieved a decent measure of success in his coaching career, but mee thinks the fact he has lost many final matches, and thus missed the chance of being termed an absolute " top coach," has quite a lot to do with this coaching weakness: obsession with defensive soccer! Coach Cuper is always too anxioius to protect the slightest lead of his team, in the process, he sometimes, deprives his team, the opportunity of sealing victory through more goals scored, against even weaker opponents! This is what happened in the final match against Cameroun. The Camerounians were weaker than the Egyptians, instead of taking advantage, Coach Cuper, in his obsession for defensive soccer, gave up the opportunity, and allowed the Camerounians to come back into the game, by giving up vital space in mid-field, as a result of withdrawing into their trenches, an opportunity, which the Camerounians, gratefully, accepted, by piling up the pressure; and eventually, getting the desired goals needed for victory!

While not taking anything away from the Camerounian victory, a tactically sounder Egyptian coach, would have won that match!

What are the lessons for our dear Super Eagles? Mee thinks the greatest threat to the Super Eagles, with regards "Russia 2018," are the Camerounians. The Camerounian team has certainly grown in stature, in the aftermath of the 2017 Nations' cup victory. They are no more the team that started the World cup qualification series, in 2016; and, certainly, not the team that lost by 3-0, to the Super Eagles, in Belgium, in 2015. They have certainly grown, and with the intrinsic fighting spirit of the "Indomitable Lions," would be certainly difficult to defeat by the Super Eagles. However, mee thinks with good preparations, good mentality and a decent measure of good luck, the Super Eagles would get past the Camerounians and eventually get the World cup ticket.

Yours sincerely, is using the opportunity of this piece, to salute the "Indomitable Lions" of Cameroun, on their unexpected victory at the 2017 Nations' cup competition; and to pay tribute to their stars of yore, who have played a key role in giving them the reputation of the "Indomitable Lions." Yours sincerely, remembers players like:

Thomas N'kono, Antoine Bell, Sang O' Jacques, Alioum Boubcar, Kameni, Aodou, Laurent, Emmanuel kunde, Cyril Makanaky, Emile Mbough, "Doctor" Theophile Abega, Arantes M'bida, Mbom, Manga Ongene, the Biyick brothers: Kana and Oman, Ebongue, Patrick Mboma, Samuel Eto'o, Rigobert Song, Alex Song, and the doyen of them all, the great Roger Milla; in my considerd opinion, the best striker produced by Africa, till date! Of course not forgetting the other beautiful and great Camerounian players, who have greatly contributed to the Camerounian victories, in the past, but who due to the limitations of the human memory, cannot be mentioned. I salute them all!

In conclusion, the Camerounians, won the 2017 Nations' cup competition, not on account of their superior technical/tactical finesse, but on account of their sheer guts, iron will power, "grinta," gusto, a never-say - die spirit, raw and rugged determination, not- giving- in or giving up, even in the face of difficulties and of course their admirable, indefatigable, indomitable fighting spirit, which rightly qualifies them to be called the "Indomitable lions" of Cameroun!

Yours sincerely salutes them! A very big CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!