- Benjamin Moukandjo led Cameroon to the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations title
- The Indomitables Lions captain is enjoying the most productive season of his club career
- He hopes to propel Cameroon to further glory at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017
On 23 June 2014 in Brasilia, Cameroon took on the host nation in their third Group A match of the FIFA World Cup™. Les Lions Indomptables had already been eliminated from the tournament following a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia and were reduced to the role of sparring partners for Neymar and Co, ahead of the Round of 16.
In the 58th minute, Benjamin Moukandjo left the pitch with his head down low, to be replaced by Edgar Salli. His first World Cup experience had turned into a debacle, with Cameroon, who would finish last, recording their worst-ever results at the competition while appearing exhausted and disharmonious.
Two-and-a-half years later in Gabon, a very different story played out. When the final curtain fell, Moukandjo, grinning from ear to ear, lifted the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations as ticker tape and glitter fell from the sky.
The influential captain was named man of the match in the final against Egypt (2-1) – the icing on the cake for the on-song 28-year-old forward, who performed impressively throughout the tournament and inspired his countrymen to their first continental crown since 2002. It was also a success that secured them a berth at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 in June.
We celebrated our Cup of Nations victory in style, but the time has come for us to prepare for this new challenge.
After coming down from that massive high, Moukandjo swiftly switched his focus to contributing towards Lorient’s attempts to escape relegation from Ligue 1. The African attacker hit the ground running, notching six goals to help the Breton outfit extricate themselves from the danger zone and give them a genuine chance of staying up.
However, due to a niggling injury, the Douala-born front man, who is just one goal short of beating his personal single-season scoring record, was forced to watch from the sidelines as Les Merlus locked horns with Angers (1-1) last weekend.
13 – The number of league goals that Moukandjo has scored this season, equalling his tally for last year, which already represented a career best.
And there is no question of the Cameroon skipper taking any risks with his body with Russia 2017 just around the corner. “The Confederations Cup is a major tournament,” he said. “We celebrated our Cup of Nations victory in style, but the time has come for us to prepare for this new challenge. We’ll play a few games to keep us in good shape before the big matches that lie ahead.”
The event, which brings together the world’s continental champions, will provide the Indomitable Lions with an opportunity to make up for the last time they appeared on the global stage in Brazil. Following their triumph in Gabon, the Africans have an eye on emulating their predecessors, who memorably reached the final in 2003.
To achieve that, they will need to sustain the team’s renewed feeling of unity, which coach Hugo Broos was already praising back in February. “I’ve been coaching for 29 years, and I’ve never had a group of players like this one,” said the Belgian. “I tell them every day that they have a friendship that needs to be nurtured. They’re all true friends, and you don’t see that very often in a football team.”
Cameroon’s upcoming fixtures
13 June: Friendly match against Colombia (Getafe)
18 June: Cameroon-Chile (Moscow)
22 June: Cameroon-Australia (St Petersburg)
25 June: Germany-Cameroon (Sochi)