Even the return of Samuel Eto’o couldn’t save Cameroon from failing to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations soccer finals.
The four-time winners and 1990 World Cup quarterfinalists defeated Cape Verde 2-1 in their return leg last Sunday in Yaounde in front of nearly 55,000 spectators, but were eliminated 3-2 on goal aggregate after Cape Verde won the first leg match 2-0.
It’s the first time that the 10-island country has advanced to the regional finals. Cameroon also did not qualify for the last Africa Cup of Nations jointly held earlier this year in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
“The Lions (Cameroon) have played the way they could, but unfortunately they lost,” said new coach Jean-Paul Akono, who replaced Frenchman Denis Lavagne after the first leg match. “But it’s important to wish the Cape Verde team good luck.”
Eto’o was reinstated for the match after serving an eight-month suspension and a self-imposed international exile with Lavagne at the helm.
Two-time champion Nigeria, which failed to qualify for the last tournament, blitzed Liberia 6-1 to secure its spot while four-time champions Ghana beat Malawi 1-0 to book its place in the 16-team finals to be played in South Africa.
The Senegal/Ivory Coast match was abandoned in Dakar after a fan riot broke out.
Home fans started fires in the stands and threw objects on the pitch as Senegal was facing elimination after being down 2-0. Ivorian fans jumped on the pitch to escape the violence that erupted after Ivorian striker Didier Drogba scored his second goal from the penalty spot with about 15 minutes remaining in the game.
The result would have extended Ivory Coast’s goal aggregate lead to 6-2.
The Africa Cup of Nations finalists are host country South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisia and Zambia.
By RON FANFAIR