The whole of Africa will be behind Cameroon, as it kick-starts the continent’s participation at the Brazil 2014 World Cup in a few hours with a potentially pulsating clash against North American power house, Mexico.
But Cameroon can put aside their seesaw qualification process and draw inspiration from some of the most momentous victories by African sides at the global showpiece.
Algeria vs West Germany, Spain ’82
As upsets go, this was huge. Clearly, the Germans were overwhelming favourites. Their confidence level was 100 per cent — it was so high that some of them made shockingly disrespectful statements towards their opponents in pre-match interviews.
“We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs,” one player said; while another said he would play the game with cigar in his mouth.
Their manager, Jupp Derwall, got in on the act as well, suggesting that he would jump onto the first train back to Munich if his team lost the game. He didn’t keep to his words!
Led by Rabah Madjer, one of the best African footballers of all time, Algeria defeated West Germany 2-1 in their first-ever game in the World Cup.
After going down 1-0, Germany fought back and scored an equaliser around the hour mark, but were left red-faced again soon afterwards when Algeria scored their second just a minute later, which eventually turned out to become the match-winner.
June 16, 1982, El Molinón, Gijón
Referee: Enrique Labo Revoredo (Perú)
Algeria-West Germany 2-1
Goals: 1-0 Madjer (54), 1-1 K.H. Rummenigge (67), 2-1 Belloumi (68)
Algeria: Cerbah; Guendouz, Kourichi, Merzekane, Assad, Fergani, Belloumi, Madjer (Larbes), Zidane (Bensaoula), Dahleb, Mansouri
West Germany: Schumacher; Briegel, Breitner, Foerster, Dremmler, Littbarski, Hrubesch, K.H. Rummenigge, Magath (Fischer), Stielike, Kaltz
Cameroon vs Argentina, Italia ’90
Reigning champions Argentina went into Italia ’90 as one of the favourites for the tournament and reached the final, but not before they were embarrassed by Cameroon in the opening game.
The South Americans, led by their talisman Diego Maradona, were expected to cruise through their first game but got more than they bargained for against the African side.
An aggressive Cameroon made their intentions clear early, picking up four yellow cards, though they were lucky to go into the break on level terms as the 1986 champions came close to scoring on more than one occasion.
Cameroon’s physical approach did seem to backfire, when Andrea Kana Biyik saw red early in the second half for a bad challenge on Claudio Cannigia.
But moments later, Francois Oman Biyik escaped his marker from a free-kick and guided a header past Nery Pumpido. The effort was straight at Pumpido but he made a mess of it and allowed the ball to roll over the line, much to the delight of the Cameroonians.
June 8, 1990, Stadio Giusseppe Meazza, Milano
Referee: Michel Vautrot (France)
Goals: 1-0 Omam-Biyik (67)
Argentina: Pumpido; Batista, Balbo, Basualdo, Burruchaga, Lorenzo, Fabbri, Maradona, Sensini (Calderón), Ruggeri (Caniggia), Simon
Cameroon: Nkono; Kana-Biyik (RC, 61), Massing (RC, 89), Ebwelle, Kunde, Omam-Biyik, Mbouh, Mfede (Libiih), Tataw, Ndip, Makanaky (Milla)
Senegal vs France Korea/Japan 2002
Like Argentina in 1990, France were the reigning world and European champions but in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup debutants Senegal had something in store for them.
The football world was in shock when Senegal achieved the unthinkable by beating France 1-0.
A defensive mix-up between Emmanuel Petit and Fabien Barthez, allowed Papa Boupa Diop to score the only goal on the half hour.
The decline of the ‘French Dynasty’ started in the most unceremonious of way after this defeat.
May 31, 2002, Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul
Referee: A Bujsaim (United Arab Emirates).
Goals: Pape Bouba Diop 30.
France: Barthez, Thuram, Leboeuf, Desailly, Lizarazu, Wiltord (Cisse 81), Petit, Djorkaeff (Dugarry 60), Vieira, Henry, Trezeguet.
Senegal: Sylva, Daf, Coly, Diao, Diouf, Pape Bouba Diop, Cisse, Diatta, Pape Malick Diop, Moussa N’diaye, Fadiga.
Pain for Spain against Nigeria, France ’98
The winning goal is still fresh in the memory.
A throw-in deep in the Spanish half was headed clear by a defender but Sunday Oliseh followed it up with an explosive shot from 25 yards that took Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta completely by surprise.
Wearing black arm bands on their green jerseys because of the death, few days back, of the head of state, Sani Abacha, the Super Eagles looked jaded and distracted. The team had not only lost Abacha but also their last three warm-ups prior to this game.
But after digging themselves into a 2-1 hole, the 1996 Olympic champions fought back on goals by Garba and Mutiu Adepoju.
Oliseh’s ferocious strike was the icing on the cake.
June 13, 1998, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Referee: Esfandiar Baharmast (United States)
Goals: 1-0 Hierro (20), 1-1 Adepoju (24), 2-1 Raul (46), 2-2 Lawal (72), 2-3 Oliseh (77)
Spain: Zubizarreta; Ferrer (Amor, 46), Alkorta, Sergi, Campo, Nadal (Celades, 77); Hierro, Enrique, Raul; Perez (Etxeberria, 58); Kiko.
Nigeria: Rufai; Oparaku (Yekini, 70), West, Okechukwu, Babayaro; Oliseh, Lawal (Okpara, 90), Okocha, Adepoju; George, Ikpeba (Babangida, 83).
There was little doubt that the Portuguese were expecting a victory; and in a way, it was a realistic expectation.
In their first two matches, Morocco had first tied 0-0 with the 1982 bronze winners Poland, and then recorded another 0-0 draw with England. meanwhile, Portugal had defeated England 1-0 and lost 1-0 to Poland, and thus apparently had good chances of progressing to the next round against the still-underestimated Moroccans.
Morocco completely overran the Portuguese from the start of the match to the end and convincingly won 3-1.
Morocco were group winners ahead of England. Portugal came last.
June 11, 1986, Estadio Tres de Marzo, Guadalajara
Referee: Alan Snoddy (Northern Ireland)
Goals: 1-0 Khairi (19), 2-0 Khairi (26), 3-0 Merry Krimau (62), 3-1 Diamantino (80)
Morocco: Badou; Khalifa, Lamris, El Biyaz, Bouyahyaoui, Dolmy, Moustaffa El Haddaoui (Soulaimain), Bouderbala, Krimau, Timoumi, Khairi
Portugal: Damas; Antonio Sousa (Diamantino), Alvaro (Rui Aguas), Carlos Manuel, Pacheco, Frederico, Gomes, Futre, Jaimes Magalhaes, Oliveira, Inacio