Call it third time lucky or whatever, but the truth is that the intermediate lions played probably their best game in the Ndtoungou Mpile era.
Haven failed to go above the quarter finals on two occasions (2011 and 2016), it was now or never for the intermediate lions of Cameroon. And in front of them was record winners of the African Nations championship, the Leopards of DR Congo.
Yes one will blame the pre_match uncertainties in the Congolese camp for their defeat, as Florent Ibenge Ikwange and his boys looked psychologically worn out.
“Yesterday results came out with 13 players Positive for Covid-19. We contested the results and opted to do a new test. The results came out today and in all our delegation, just three persons tested Positive. (Two players and the Kiné). It is a very bad image for Cameroon, a frustrated Ibenge told the press after the game.
However, the truth is that Martin Ndtoungou Mpile got his tactics spot on. Mpile kept faith in his back four of Banga Bindjeme, Etame François, Hassana Abo and unsurprisingly Steve Roberto Kueni at left back.
Against all expectations, Ndtoungou Mpile handed rare starts to Gabriel Fils Penda at the Midfield, and Joseph Yannick N’Djeng as center forwards. Both players prior to Saturday’s game, had made just one cameo each.
Suddenly, the boisterous crowd at the Japoma Stadium went mute, when AS Vita club’s Makabi Glody gave the leopards the lead just 20 minutes into the game.
The lions stayed calm and the reaction was instantaneous. Goalkeeper Matampi Ley fumbled on a Cameroon corner kick, and N’Djeng was quick to react. It was just a matter of time before Felix Oukine send the crowd into wild celebration.
The most important thing was how Ndtoungou Mpile’s new starters fitted in the game and the impact they created. Gabriel Penda was solid at the Midfield and supplemented the defense very well.
On his substitutions, Martin Ndtoungou Mpile got it all correct. Ngon A Tiati (Forward) out and replaced by Yamkam Basile (right back). Gabriel Penda subbed off for an experience Rostand Moukap, before Bryan Soga came on for Yannick N’Djeng.
Call it parking the bus or whatsoever, but the lions ended the game with six defenders on the pitch. One thing is clear, Ndtoungou Mpile succeed in his game plan aimed at containing the Leopards, and giving little or no space for the likes of Masasi Amede, Fiston Kalala and John’s Kabangu.
Cameroon’s quarter final syndrome has been broken at last and now is the time for the intermediate lions to write new history books.