Eto’o returns as Cameroon attempt to avoid early exit

Reuters, CAPE TOWN

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - Page 18

Samuel Eto’o returns to the Cameroon side as they try to avoid elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations at the hands of the island archipelago of Cape Verde in the final round of qualifying games this weekend.

Along with Cape Verde, the Central African Republic are also on the verge of qualifying for their first African Nations Cup in an upturn in fortunes for two of the continent’s minnows.

Cape Verde are 2-0 up against four-time winners Cameroon, who replaced their coach following their first-leg defeat.

Eto’o, who had refused to play in the first match after labeling the set-up around the team amateurish, made himself available for Sunday’s game following a meeting with Cameroon’s prime minister.

“I am convinced that together, putting aside other interests for the country, we are capable, with God’s assistance, of giving Cameroon football the panache, and shine of old,” Eto’o said last month.

The Central African Republic, who have jumped from 200th in the FIFA rankings in 2009 to 49th in the latest rankings, have a 1-0 first-leg lead against Burkina Faso, having upset record winners Egypt in the first round of qualifiers.

Also in danger of missing the finals are Zambia, who take a 1-0 lead to Uganda tomorrow.

The 2012 winners struggled to win the first leg of their qualifier against Uganda, who last played in the finals in 1978.

Ivory Coast have a 4-2 lead from the first leg against Senegal as they continue their quest to provide talismanic captain Didier Drogba with a first Nations Cup title.

Drogba has competed at four successive tournaments, and reached two finals, but has never won African soccer’s most coveted prize.

Aged 34, the 2013 tournament in South Africa probably represents his last chance.

However, the Ivorians could yet slip up in Dakar tomorrow after conceding two away goals in the first leg to a strong Senegal side.

Ethiopia are seeking to qualify for the finals for the first time in 31 years but are two goals down after losing 5-3 to Sudan last month.

Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Tunisia are all well placed to advance to the finals.