The indomitable lions of African football, Cameroon, are all set to embark on their quest to secure the nation’s 5th AFCON title. Manager Hugo Broos has announced the 23-man-squad that will compete in the 31st edition of the prestigious competition. Cameroon are drawn along with hosts Gabon, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau in group A and the Lions will take on Burkina Faso in their first match of the tournament on the 14th of this month.
Cameroon last won the AFCON in 2002 and their hopes of ending the 15-year long wait have been dealt a blow before the start of the tournament. The Lions are forced travel to Gabon without several key players, who have opted not to play in the competition, including Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Schalke striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Along with Matip and Choupo-Moting, Allan Nyom, Andre Onana, Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, Maxime Poundje, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Ibrahim Amadou have all chosen club over country. The Lions will also be without the services of national team captain and Hebei China Fortune FC midfielder, Stephane Mbia.
In spite of the player pull out, the nation would be optimistic of their chances and the fans will be counting on the current squad to end their long wait for the trophy. Here, we talk of five players who would be the key to Cameroon’s success in the tournament.
#5 Nicolas Nkoulou
The 26-year-old central defender, who has made 68 appearances for the national team, is one of the key figures in Hugo Bross’s plans for the tournament. With Joel Matip’s reluctance to play in the tournament and the exclusion of experienced defenders Henri Bedimo and Aurelien Chedjou from the squad, Nkoulou is the one who would have to shore things at the back for the Lions.
Nkoulou made his national team debut in 2008 in an international friendly against South Africa. The 26-year-old, who plays his club football for Lyon, captained the side during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and he is the most experienced player in Cameroon’s AFCON squad.
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Nkoulou learned his trade at the Kadji Sports Academy, the same academy where the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Carlos Kameni started their careers. He then moved to France with Monaco at the age of 18 and spent three years at the club. In 2011, Marseille secured his services and after five seasons moved to Lyon.
The 26-year-old’s no-nonsense defending will be vital for Cameroon’s progress in the tournament.