- 30 Sep 2000
- Sydney 2000
Cameroon's footballers pull off a giant-killing
There had been few signs in their early matches of the Olympic football tournament that Cameroon were due to have a spectacular Games. A rather unconvincing 3-2 win over Kuwait was followed by solid but uninspiring draws with the USA and the Czech Republic.
And yet there was a seam of great resolve within the team, and it came to the fore during their quarter-final match against Brazil.
Patrick Mboma had given the Cameroonians a first-half lead that they were successfully defending with a quarter of an hour left, when midfielder Geremi was sent off after picking up his second yellow card. Still they hung on, only for Aaron Nguimbat to be sent off in injury time. Moments later Ronaldinho equalised for Brazil.
With just nine players, and facing half an hour of extra time, Cameroon looked doomed. Instead, they held on impressively and then snatched a shock winner seven minutes from the end through substitute Modeste Mbami.
They faced another mountain in the semi-final, when Chile took the lead with only 12 minutes left. But then Mboma equalised in the 84th minute and, almost with the game's final kick, Cameroon sealed victory thanks to Lauren Etame-Mayer's penalty. Their form may have been erratic but Cameroon were now in the final against Spain.
The Spanish team was packed with exciting young players such as Xavi Hernandez, who was destined to be the mainstay of Barcelona's midfield. And it was he who have Spain the lead after just 78 seconds.
Spain doubled their advantage before half-time and were looking very comfortable. But, once again, the Cameroonians showed extraordinary fighting spirit, with Mboma's cross deflecting in off a Spanish defender to halve the deficit. Just before the hour mark Samuel Eto'o stroked home an equaliser and then Spain had two players sent off before the match went into extra time.
This time, there was to be no last-gasp goal and so the gold medal was instead settled by means of a penalty shoot-out. With Spain's Iván Amaya hitting the bar, it fell to Pierre Wome to score the decisive penalty that gave Cameroon the gold medal.
At home, the victory was greeted with utter delight, and the country’s president declared a public holiday to celebrate the triumph.