How Cameroon Beat Burkina Faso 2-1 In African Cup of Nations’ Opening Game



UPDATED: Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in AFCON 2021 opener - Punch  Newspapers

Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar scored two penalties in quick succession as the host country came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the African Cup of Nations’ opening game Sunday, lifting the mood of a tournament burdened throughout the buildup by the coronavirus pandemic.

Aboubakar slotted the first penalty to the right side of the goal in the 40th minute and the second to the left side in the third minute of first-half injury time.

It left a large crowd at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde sighing with relief after they’d waited out two delays lasting three years before the African Cup finally came to their Central African country. Cameroon’s long-serving 88-year-old President Paul Biya smiled broadly at the end.

Cameroon was stripped of the 2019 tournament because of problems with its preparations and saw its 2021 hosting delayed a year because of the virus.

It seemed the wait wouldn’t be worth it when Gustavo Sangaré volleyed Burkina Faso into the lead in the 24th minute. He ran off pounding his chest in celebration. Cameroon fans had their heads in their hands.

But Burkina Faso lost the lead with two reckless pieces of defending in the closing minutes of the first half.

Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traoré barged into André-Frank Zambo Anguissa to give Cameroon its first penalty, which was only awarded after referee Mustapha Ghorbal consulted VAR.

VAR is being used in all games at the African Cup for the first time. It was used from the quarterfinals onward at the last one.

Soon after, Issoufou Dayo mistimed a sliding tackle to foul Nouhou Tolo and Aboubakar kept his cool for a second time.

VAR was also pivotal in the second Group A game on the opening day, where Cape Verde beat Ethiopia 1-0, also at Olembe. Referee Hélder Martins Rodrigues de Carvalho gave Ethiopia defender Yared Bayeh a yellow card for a foul on striker Júlio Tavares but changed that to red in the 12th minute after consulting VAR. Tavares headed in Cape Verde’s goal right on halftime.

The tournament officially opened a few hours earlier at the newly rebuilt Olembe Stadium with a burst of color as dancers wearing red, green, yellow, white and blue costumes performed in the middle of the field during a short opening ceremony. Some of them wore masks in matching colors, a reminder that Africa’s monthlong soccer showpiece is going ahead amid a global surge in virus cases driven by the omicron variant.

A computer-generated image of a giant lion walked across the top of the stadium roof as the ceremony began, a nod to Cameroon’s team, known as the “Indomitable Lions.” Red, green and yellow smoke — the colors of Cameroon’s flag — burst from a huge replica of the trophy to end the celebrations marking Cameroon’s biggest sporting moment since last hosting the African Cup 50 years ago.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended, as did Biya, who has been president of Cameroon since 1982. Biya didn’t wear a mask and neither did many of the soccer supporters.

The 60,000-seat stadium was nearly full for the Cameroon game, even after organizers introduced a last-minute restriction that only fully vaccinated fans with proof of recent negative virus tests will be allowed into stadiums for any of the 52 games. Attendances are also capped at 80% of stadium capacity for games involving the home team, and 60% for other games.

The tournament will still be hard-pressed to avoid being regularly disrupted by infections and outbreaks given that so many of the 24 teams have had virus cases in the buildup.

“Today, by all of us being here, it shows that we believe in ourselves, that we believe in the people of Cameroon and we believe in the people of Africa,” Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe said at the ceremony. He said it would be the best African Cup ever.

Yet this African Cup has been the target of more skepticism than most. There were rumors that it was going to be postponed again, while European clubs have expressed concerns that the health protocols won’t be sufficient to protect their African players. CAF rejected the criticism and pressed ahead.

“The people of Cameroon are showing the rest of Africa, the rest of the world, that we can host a successful…” Motsepe said, before the cheers of the crowd prevented him finishing his sentence.


The country is hosting the game Fifty years after last hosted it  Cameroon kick off the continental showpiece on Sunday targeting a sixth title while hoping the spectre of the coronavirus does not overshadow the tournament.

Cameroon, who played 2013 runners-up Burkina Faso in their opening Group A match at the vast new 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, know expectations are high for the Indomitable Lions.

However, they will have to measure up to the likes of reigning champions Algeria, the Senegal of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

Cameroon was initially supposed to be the host nation in 2019, before being stripped of the tournament due to delays in its preparations, with Egypt taking over. The 33rd Cup of Nations was then postponed last year because of the pandemic.

This time it does go ahead, and Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao is well aware of the pressure on his side.

“It’s what they put on the table when I signed my contract: at least get to the final, do everything to win it,” Conceicao told AFP.

“We feel that the people and history of Cameroon oblige us to do it. It sets the bar pretty high, but we’re convinced we can reach these goals.”

“We’ve got a big weight on our shoulders,” added the Portuguese.

African football officials have set down tough Covid-19 rules in a bid to prevent the competition becoming a super-spreader event, requiring teams to play even if just 11 players are available.

Gabon star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was forced to isolate in his hotel after testing positive on Thursday, while Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked national team, travelled to Cameroon without three members of their squad for the same reason.

Senegal then had key defender Kalidou Koulibaly test positive shortly after their arrival.

– ‘Scandal’ –

Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traore called the testing procedures a “scandal” after at least four squad members and coach Kamou Malo tested positive in the run-up to Sunday’s opener.

“It’s a scandal, we cannot be deprived of first team players 24 hours before the match,” said Traore.

“The authorities must review the organisation.”

Covid, though, is far from the only concern in a country dealing with a conflict in the English-speaking west.

Matches in Group F, featuring Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia, are due to be played in Limbe, a coastal city close to Mount Cameroon which is also a hotspot of separatist unrest.

Jihadist raiders also pose a problem in the north, at least beyond the city of Garoua where Salah’s Egypt and Nigeria will play group games.

It is because of the health crisis that organisers have capped crowd limits at 60 percent of capacity, or 80 percent when the hosts play.

Spectators must be vaccinated and have a negative test result, but only six percent of the adult population is inoculated.

Cameroon, though, is football mad and many fans will be desperate to attend games in a country that has only hosted the Cup of Nations once before, in 1972 when there were just eight participants.

However, the nation that gave the world the likes of Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o — the latter now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation — no longer boasts the same level of stardust.

– Comoros, Gambia debut –

They have Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, but the real superstars of the continent will be elsewhere.

Senegal boast not just Liverpool forward Mane but also Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Holders Algeria, unbeaten in 33 competitive games, will be led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, while Morocco have PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi and Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, amongst others.

Nigeria, meanwhile, cross the border without Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, or Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, whose club said they received notice of his call-up too late.

In any case this Cup of Nations is not just about the big names, as Gambia, ranked 148th in the world, and the Indian Ocean island state of the Comoros make their debuts.

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