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 Sunday, February 13
Cameroon victorious on penalty kicks
 
Reuters

 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.

Patrick Mboma, Augustine Okocha
Cameroon's Patrick Mboma, left, battles Nigeria's Austin Okocha for possession.

"It was draining, really dramatic, right to the end," said the Liverpool defender amid wild scenes of celebration by the Cameroon squad.

"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 coverage.

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 the lead.

African Nations
Cup champions
2000: Cameroon
1998: Egypt
1996: South Africa
1994: Nigeria
1992: Ivory Coast
1990: Algeria
1988: Cameroon
1986: Egypt
1984: Cameroon
1982: Ghana
1980: Nigeria
1978: Ghana
1976: Morocco
1974: Zaire
1972: Congo
1970: Sudan
1968: Zaire
1965: Ghana
1963: Ghana
1962: Ethiopia
1959: Egypt
1957: Egypt

Nigerian defender Taribo West almost added a third for Cameroon, saved only by the woodwork as he attempted to clear Wome's cross.

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 period.

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 Lechantre.

"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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