Cameroon Is In There: Beautiful AFCON

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Cameroon squeaks by Gambia in AFCON game dubbed the ‘best match in the history of football’

Cameroon scored two late goals to knock Gambia out of the tournament and progress into the last 16.

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is always entertaining, but few games in the history of the competition can stand up to Cameroon’s 3-2 win against Gambia on Tuesday.

Five-time champion Cameroon, which dropped Manchester United goalkeeper André Onana for the all-important tie, scored two late goals to secure progression into the last 16 and knock its valiant opponent out of the competition.

The action was so intense that Spanish journalist Andrés Onrubia Ramos excitedly called it the “best match in the history of football.”

“Seriously, I’m not exaggerating,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The match, like all of AFCON, is insane,” he added in a separate post.

Considering it ended as such a high-scoring encounter, there were surprisingly no goals in a frantic first-half where both teams had chances to break the deadlock.

The first goal didn’t come until the 56th minute though, when Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi headed his country in front.

Gambia, needing a win to realistically keep alive any hopes of progression out of the group stages, continued to push for an equalizer, which it deservedly found when Ablie Jallow kept his nerve to volley in from close range after 72 minutes.

TOPSHOT - Gambia's forward #19 Ebrima Colley celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group C football match between Gambia and Cameroon at Stade de la Paix in Bouake on January 23, 2024. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
Gambia looked to have stunned the five-time AFCON champion but couldn’t hold on in the frantic affair.Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

The game continued at a hectic pace, with both sides desperate to find a winner, and it was the side ranked 126th in the world that looked to have caused an upset.

Gambia took the lead through Ebrima Colley’s composed finish in the 85th minute, sparking frenzied scenes between the players and coaching staff.

The celebrations didn’t last long, however, as Cameroon struck back just two minutes later after a low cross was accidentally turned into his own net by Gambia’s James Gomez.

‘Such games are a victory for us’

The final few minutes were simply epic, with Cameroon desperate to find a winner which eventually came in the 91st minute. Christopher Wooh rose highest to meet a corner and direct his header into the net.

After scoring the winner, Wooh navigated the advertising boards beside the pitch and ran to the fans in celebration, with the rest of the Indomitable Lions squad and coaching staff in hot pursuit.

The drama hadn’t quite finished, though, with Cameroon appearing to let in an equalizer just one minute later.

However, replays showed Muhammed Sanneh had used his hand to direct a corner into the net – a good try, but a bit too obvious in the era of the video assistant referee (VAR).

Despite the defeat, Gambia head coach Tom Sainfait said he was proud of his players.

“Such games are a victory for us,” he said, after announcing he would now step down from his role.

While later qualifying his ‘greatest game ever’ comments as “hyperbole,” Onrubia noted that the match “was a reflection of what this AFCON has been, no defending, very fast attacks and with emotion until the end.”

After finishing second in Group C, Cameroon will face a tough fixture against Nigeria in the last 16 on Saturday.

Cameroon players celebrate after Cameroon's defender #4 Christopher Wooh scored their team's third goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group C football match between Gambia and Cameroon at Stade de la Paix in Bouake on January 23, 2024. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
Players and coaching staff celebrate after Cameroon scores the late winner.Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Elsewhere, on another dramatic day of AFCON action, Algeria crashed out of the tournament after a surprise 1-0 defeat against Mauritania.

The 2019 champion, which boasts an array of top-class talent, finished bottom of Group D after failing to win a single game in the group stages.

Algeria’s fate was sealed by Yali Dellahi’s strike in the first half of the match on Tuesday.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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