Challenging for a record-equalling fifth CAF Africa Cup of Nations title in west Africa will fill a Samuel Eto'o-inspired Cameroon with confidence. The Indomitable Lions have won the trophy three times in the region, a record no country can match with Ghana (twice), Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Egypt the other countries to succeed there.
After several decades of underachievement, Cameroon first served
notice of their intention to become a dominant force by defeating
Nigeria 3-1 in the 1984 final in Côte d'Ivoire. Morocco was the
setting for their next Africa Cup of Nations success four years
later, with Nigeria again the runners-up.
And when the countries clashed once more in the 2000 decider in Lagos, the odds were against the visitors. But after surrendering a 2-0 advantage in the electric atmosphere of the Surulere Stadium, Cameroon prevailed in a penalty shootout.
To defeat the Super Eagles in Nigeria ranks among the most difficult tasks for an African national team, and the result confirmed Cameroon as an continental powerhouse.
After cruising into the final of the ensuing tournament by
winning five consecutive matches without conceding a goal, Cameroon
were taken to the wire by a new force on the continent, an El-Hadji
Diouf-led Senegal. There were no goals after 120 cautious minutes
in Mali and once again the steel-edged nerves of the Indomitable
Lions prevailed in a shootout, where half of the ten spot-kicks did
not produce goals.
While main 2008 title rivals Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria face difficult first round assignments, Cameroon have been blessed by a favourable Group C draw that pits them against Egypt, Sudan and Zambia. The Egyptians may be the holders but few give them any chance of a sixth title, while Sudan lack experience after a 32-year absence and unpredictable Zambia rely too heavily on too few stars.
Although Cameroon are only second seeds behind Egypt, it would be a surprise if they failed to top the table and a favourable last eight tie looms with Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria all in the opposite half of the draw.
However, quarter-final exits in the last two editions of the Cup of Nations will remind Barcelona star Eto'o and company that the Lions who roared into the Ghana 2008 field from a group including Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Liberia are not always indomitable.