Cameroon revive Italy 1990 spirit to create history
Cameroon has long been renowned for their achievements at the FIFA World Cup™, most famously their iconic win over Argentina at Italy 1990. But now the Indomitable Lionesses have created similar breakthough success with a dynamic 2-1 win over Switzerland catapulting them into historic qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ knockout stage.
Cameroon are now just the second African team after Nigeria in 1999 to progress beyond the group stage, and their win over Switzerland is only the second by an African nation over a European opponent at the tournament. Cameroon’s nine goals at Canada 2015 is comfortably the highest tally by a representative of the Mother Continent.
Few backed Cameroon to succeed at Canada 2015 on their debut but the Indomitable Lionesses played with all the swagger and confidence of Roger Milla and Co during that memorable Italian summer to advance. Cameroon came within inches of taking a point from world champions Japan in their last outing, and the result meant Switzerland only needed a draw on Tuesday in Edmonton. A goal down at half-time Cameroon played with rare verve to dominate the second half against the first European team to qualify for Canada 2015.
Gabrielle Onguene drew the teams level and when substitute Madeleine Ngono Mani then powered in a bullet header from close-range to finish a thrilling move there was only going to be one winner. Ngono Mani - who has served the national team with distinction for well over a decade – was in many ways the perfect candidate to be front and centre for the Indomitable Lionesses' special moment.
We actually represent all of Africa and we are proud to be representing it in the World Cup.
And the pacy forward was all smiles and laughs when she spoke to FIFA.com post-match still basking in the afterglow of the team's achievement. She was even more amused at the idea of her goal being the female equivalent of Francois Omam-Biyik’s famous towering header to see off Diego Maradona’s Argentina 25 years ago. “I can’t compare myself to him,” Ngono Mani said barely containing an infectious laugh. “I try my best to practise my heading but I can’t compare to him. It is like we are taking after them , and taking an example from them,” continues the 31-year-old.
The result, Ngono Mani believes, is a win for the whole African continent. “We actually represent all of Africa and we are proud to be representing it in the World Cup.”
Ngono Mani says the Indomitable Lionesses have long attempted to emulate the success of Nigeria who for many years were Africa’s perennial champions. Now, somewhat ironically, Cameroon have made a statement on the world stage on the very day that Nigeria were eliminated despite a valiant effort in a group featuring USA, Australia and Sweden.
“Nigeria were winning all the time in Africa,” says Ngono Mani. “They were pushing us to say one day we also have to achieve like Nigeria. For me in particular it was the only thing in Africa that could reach that level so it was kind of inspirational to me. achievement is going to change a lot of things for Cameroonian women’s football. Nobody expected that we would win, and we did our best and won the match. I could never have imagined this when I was young.”