Côte d'Ivoire here we come!.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon became the last team to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, after defeating the Swallows of Burundi, 3-0 in the final Group C fixture of the qualification tournament.

The all-action encounter took place at the RoumdAdjia Stadium in Garoua yesterday. It was a hugely significant game for Cameroon, who were playing in Garoua for the first time in over a decade. 

The Indomitable Lions were staring at a shocking exit as the game kicked-off, needing a crucial win to secure their qualification ticket.

It was a relatively flat performance for the host, in the first 45 minutes, as they were not at their usual best. The team suffered from its usual defensive frailties and barely threatened upfront.

Lions' best chance came from Bryan Mbeumo, who spurned a one-on-one after a swift counter attack.

Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar also had their chances but lacked the cutting edge to convert.

Burundi, arguably the better side in the game in the first 45 minutes, came close to scoring on several occasions but had their moves frustrated by Andre Onana, who put up a spectacular show that saved Cameroon an embarrassment in the first segment of the match.

The Indomitable Lions would have been trailing within the opening minutes, but for the Manchester United goalkeeper, Andre Onana, who pulled a string of fantastic saves to deny the Swallows a goal in the first 45 minutes.

Cameroon were frantically searching for a winner. Despite the hunt and pressure from the visitors, the Lions managed to end the game on goalless score when the South African referee blasted his whistle for a recess.

The Lions sparked to life in the second half. They broke the deadlock through Bryan Mbeumo, who capitalised on a defensive blunder to put Cameroon ahead on 46 minutes.

Christopher Wooh doubled the lead for the host team at the hour mark from close range after a scramble in the box from a corner kick. Vincent Aboubakar later sealed the win at stoppage time after another gaff from Burundi goalkeeper.

It was Rigobert Song’s first home win since taking charge of the team last year. The former captain of the national team will be guiding Cameroon to their 21st AFCON tournament, to be hosted by IvoryCoast, in January.

At full-time, players and staff of Burundi national team slumped to the turf in disappointment. They were hoping to feature at Africa’s flagship football tournament but missed the chance for only their second AFCON finals.

Nightmarish qualifying campaign for Cameroon

The race to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been a rough one for Cameroon. Cameroon was drawn in Group C of the qualifiers alongside Kenya, Namibia and Burundi, teams considered ‘underdogs’ in African football.

The race in the group was later reduced to just three teams, after Kenya was disqualified following a ban by world football governing body, FIFA.

The Lions had to battle Burundi and Namibia to grab one of the two spots in the group.

While analysts saw it as a walk to the park for Cameroon, it turned out to be the most difficult AFCON qualifying campaign for the Central African nation.

After a 1-0 win over Burundi in their first group game in June 2022, the boys of Coach Rigobert Song compromised their qualification chances in the next two games that followed.

The Lions pulled a 1-1 draw against Namibia in their second group game in Yaounde in April this year and lost again to the same Namibia selection 1-2 in South Africa on match day three in Group C.

Going into the final game against Burundi yesterday, Cameroon was levelled on points with Burundi and knew that a draw would eliminate them from the competition.

Yesterday's 3-0 win means the five-time AFCON holders are top of their group with 7 points ahead of Namibia that also secured a qualification ticket with 5 points.

The Indomitable Lions have participated in 20 AFCON tournaments so far since their debut in the competition in 1970 in Sudan

With Cameroon’s qualification, the list of 24 teams to play in the AFCON next year is now complete. The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will run from January 13 to February 11.

about author About author : Dewah Fabrice Teh

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