LIBREVILLE Jan 23 (Reuters) – Cameroon overcame the handicap of the defection of key players to advance to the African Nations Cup quarter-finals and coach Hugo Broos praised those who came to the tournament in Gabon.
“This young team has shown something really good to get to the quarter-finals, they’ve gained vital experience,” said the former Belgian international, who took over in February and has shaken up a dormant side.
The Indomitable Lions are four-times Nations Cup champions and have been to more World Cups than any other African country but not won any major trophy since 2002.
But Sunday’s goalless draw with Gabon in Libreville ensured second place in Group A and a first last-eight appearance since the 2010 Nations Cup.
“When I came to Cameroon in February one thing was clear and that was that the team was too old. We had 30 percent of our players 30 years and older. You can’t build for the future like that,” Broos told Reuters on Monday.
“The mentality had to change. I felt there were players coming to Cameroon who felt they had to because the coach called them up. They didn’t come with their hearts, they didn’t come to play for their country.
“Now we have young players hungry to play, keen to win and now, again, such a tournament for them is a very great experience,” he added.
“Now that we have got through, everything is open to us. Anything can happen. We have to show ambition.”
Besides freshening up the team, Broos was forced into changes when seven players he named in a preliminary squad turned down his call-up, including Joel Matip of Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion full back Allan Nyom.
On the eve of the start of their training camp, Schalke 04 striker Eric Maxime Choupo Moting also pulled out.
But Broos says he is moving forward with those who want to compete. After the Nations Cup, Cameroon have World Cup qualifiers against arch-rivals Nigeria.
“We still need someone who scores and this is maybe what we have to work on for the future,” Broos said.
“In the past Cameroon always had good strikers, like Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o. They scored with their eyes close. When we can find another, we can create a really good team.
“Now I’m hearing from the federation that others would like to come, because they see the change in the team dynamic. I know some young talent in Europe that I hope will agree to come and play for us,” Broos added. (Editing by Ed Osmond)