The party was epic on a joyous day for hosts Cameroon – with fans arriving in the stadium SIX hours before kick-off! – but their players were nervous and must deal with the huge pressure if they are to win AFCON on home soil
- Cameroon got the AFCON underway with a win over Burkina Faso on Sunday
- The party atmosphere was silenced by Gustavo Sangare’s 24th-minute strike
- Vincent Aboubakar’s brace earned Cameroon a far-from-convincing victory
- The hosts will be buoyed by their strong support but they’ll need more to win it
After hours of enthusiastic build up to the Africa Cup of Nations opener, Gustavo Sangare silenced the vibrant Cameroonian crowd in one fell swoop, with his 24th-minute strike causing a deafening hush in Yaounde.
The Cameroonian celebrations increased in intensity as the day wore on, beginning with a mass wave of fans lining the streets of the capital leading to the Olembe Stadium, many of whom desperate to be a part of this historic event about to unfold.
A plethora of motorcycles – each carrying at least two passengers – and a wave of yellow taxis made up the backdrop, with traffic considerably compromised as supporters had already started filling up the stadium six hours before kick off.
The fireworks and the stunning lights show did little to hide Cameroon’s gaping flaws
It was clear to see how much victory meant to Cameroon’s captain Vincent Aboubakar
Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, took this moment to rejoice in the seismic occasion before his country. His speech ignited the joy, and pride, that is pouring over Cameroon, with this AFCON a huge success for him in his 40th year as president.
However, not every president in attendance on Sunday night was as warmly welcomed by the onlooking supporters. CAF president Patrice Motsepe delighted in the prospect of the world seeing the best of what Africa has to offer, but he was greeted by loud boos when he thanked FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was also present in Yaounde.
The overwhelming joy in the capital was cut short by Sangare’s goal and demonstrated the huge pressure on the shoulders of Cameroon’s players this month.
The streets of Yaounde were lined by fans who wanted to bask in the history of this seismic day
The party atmosphere grew as the day progressed and the team emerged triumphant
Simple passes were missed, causing the stadium to let out grumbles as the big opening day risked being jeopardised by the failure of their nervous stars on the pitch.
That was until captain Vincent Aboubakar struck twice from the penalty spot to raise the morale of his team-mates and those in attendance. The Al-Nassr star on Sunday became only the third player in AFCON history to score a brace from 12 yards, after Jerry Tondelua in 1998 and Victor Moses in 2013.
However, Aboubakar’s double was unable to raise the quality in Cameroon’s performance. On this showing, the hosts seemed some way off from the level required to triumph on this stage.
In truth, nobody impressed greatly in this opening game, with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana keeping Cameroon in the game for large spells of the second half.
Yet the vibrant mood was cut short after Gustavo Sangare gave Burkina Faso an early lead
Cameroon captain Aboubakar scored a brace from the spot to win it for the AFCON hosts
A high-flying Aboubakar celebrates scoring his second goal with his team-mates
There is plenty of pressure on this young generation of stars. Of all the nations that have won AFCON, Cameroon are the only team that hasn’t lifted the trophy at home. This is their first tournament on home soil since 1972, and fans are desperate for their team not to spurn this opportunity.
Napoli’s midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is relishing the challenge. He told Sportsmail that all the players ‘feel privileged to be part of the generation that has the honour to dispute the AFCON in Cameroon.
‘We wanted to win this match to please all Cameroonians,’ he added.
Anguissa opted not to be bogged down by the manner of the victory, but admitted that his team will need to improve as they go deeper into the tournament.
However, plenty of questions continue to surround the hosts’ ability to win the tournament
With the strength of competition so high, the vociferous support of these locals will not be enough for the hosts to go all the way this year. Burkina Faso weathered the early storm from Cameroon and found much joy against their rivals, signalling that they can be got at if done correctly.
Moreover, the underdogs have also been hit by Covid problems, with five stars missing after testing positive for the virus. With that in mind, they can be hugely proud of their role in making this opening game a real fight.
Given how competitive they looked on Sunday, Burkina Faso can look at their next two matches against Cape Verde and Ethiopia with increasing confidence. These two sides met in the second game of the opening day, with Cape Verde running out 1-0 winners after Ethiopia failed to recover from an early red card.
The vociferous home support will not be enough to carry them over the line in this tournament
Despite being the smallest nation in terms of population to ever participate in AFCON, Cape Verde’s appearance this year is their third in the past 10 years and have players with European experience at their disposal, such as former Dijon star Julio Tavares.
Ethiopia had the edge over their rivals, too, having begun preparations for this tournament earlier than most sides, but they are underdogs to qualify for the knockout rounds. Regardless, Cameroon should not underestimate Webetu Abate’s side.
The flashy fireworks and impressive lights show will remain etched in the minds and eyes of those that watched this curtain raiser in Yaounde, but Cameroon should not allow this seismic occasion to cover the gaping flaws that need immediate improvement if the hosts are to flourish here.
Impressive Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana (second left) made some important saves
Cameroon are under pressure to win the trophy in their first home AFCON since 1972
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