| ||LAGOS, Nigeria -- Cameroon captured the African
Nations Cup for the third time in dramatic and contentious
fashion on Sunday, edging stunned hosts Nigeria in a penalty
shootout after a 2-2 draw.
Captain Rigobert Song converted the winning kick to ensure a 4-3 win on penalties after Nigeria had fought back from
two goals down to force extra time.
"It was draining, really dramatic, right to the end," said
the Liverpool defender amid wild scenes of celebration by the
"We have again climbed to the top in Africa. Cameroon is back."
But the outcome was clouded in controversy after a penalty by Victor Ikpeba -- Nigeria's fourth of the shootout -- hit the underside of the bar, crossed the goal line and then bounced
out. Tunisian referee Mourad Daami ruled the Borussia Dortmund
player had missed.
Television replays indicated the penalty was good, but
Tunisian linesman Taoufik Adjengui, standing alongside the goal,
appeared to be watching the kicker instead of the ball.
Ikpeba himself did not appeal for a goal, but he could well reflect on a possible injustice when he watches the match
It was a body blow for the heavily favored Nigerians, who were two goals down as early as the 31st minute but rallied to force the game into extra time.
Cameroon, known as the "Indomitable Lions," had threatened a runaway victory after goals by Samuel Eto'o in the 26th minute and a second five minutes later,
by Patrick Mboma.
Eto'o turned superbly at the near post to convert a
free kick from Pierre Wome, silencing the capacity crowd of 60,000 at Surelere stadium.
The Real Madrid reserve turned provider four minutes later, finding Mboma in space with a neat pass. The tall striker shot
through the legs of Nigerian goalkeeper Ike Shoronmu, doubling
|Cameroon's Patrick Mboma, left, battles Nigeria's Austin Okocha for possession.|
1996: South Africa
1992: Ivory Coast
Nigerian defender Taribo West almost added a third for
Cameroon, saved only by the woodwork as he attempted to clear
But the hosts pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time when Raphael Chukwu converted from a tight angle.
Two minutes into the second half, the individual brilliance of Austin Okocha was underlined by a ferocious shot from outside the area that gave goalkeeper Boukar Alioum no chance.
The Super Eagles might well have sealed a stunning triumph had Alioum not saved an angled effort from substitute Tijani Babangida late in the second half.
Tired legs ensured few chances in extra time, although Mboma might well have scored in the last minute of the 30-minute
Both teams started confidently in the penalty shootout,
scoring with their first two kicks.
But Alioum saved from Arsenal's Nwankwo Kanu, the reigining African Footballer of the Year. Geremi Fotso Njitap's effort gave Cameroon a 3-2 lead before Ikpeba's controversial attempt.
Marc-Vivien Foe could have sealed the cup for Cameroon with the fourth kick, but hit his shot wide and it was left to Song to seal victory after Nigeria's captain Sunday Oliseh had
equaled the count at 3-3.
Song seemed reluctant to take the kick, but blasted the ball home confidently to spark the festivities.
"What a fantastic group of players, who responded so well to all the work we did together," said victorious coach Pierre
"We were really fatigued today by all the bad organization here, but the team proved just how great they are by lifting themselves up to win."
Oliseh burst into tears when presented with the runners-up trophy.
Police used tear gas to disperse crowds blocking the stadium's exits.
Cameroon won the trophy in 1984 and 1988, beating Nigeria in the final both times.
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