Cameroon continued to overcome the odds and exceed expectations at the tournament in Gabon on Thursday as they beat Ghana 2-0 in their semifinal to book a place in Sunday’s final against Egypt.
It has been a whirlwind last 11 months for Broos, who played for Belgium at the 1986 World Cup and later won league titles as the coach of both Club Bruges and Anderlecht.
“In the 29 years I’ve been a coach I’ve never worked with a group like this,” he enthused after the semifinal success
Largely unknown in Africa, Broos’ arrival in Cameroon was met with scepticism that has largely continued until just a few days ago.
But Broos single mindedly set about reviving the Indomitable Lions, who despite going to the last two World Cups, had lost much of their lustre.
Sacred cows were sacrificed as the Belgian cooked his own recipe, discarding much of the team’s old guard and throwing untested youngsters into the mix.
Between his first and second games in charge – both against South Africa in the qualifiers in March – he made five changes and the rate of experimentation and attrition continued at much the same pace through seven internationals after that before Cameroon arrived at the tournament.
“I had to, most of the players were over 30 and I needed to build a team for the future,” Broos said.
Among the heroes of their progress to the final who only won their first caps last year. Defender Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui, scorer of two key goals in the tournament, debuted only in September and Danish-based striker Christian Bassogog had only two caps before the Nations Cup kicked off.
Even in Gabon Broos kept surprising surprisees as he benched former captain Nicolas Nkoulou, dropped lead striker Vincent Aboubakar and also kept Clinton Njie, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur to Olympique Marseille, on the bench.
Cameroon has long been a team where key players like Samuel Eto’o, Roger Milla and Rigobert Song never had their position in the team threatened, even when they were long past their best.
“The coach came with his plan, he was looking for a spirit and we’ve created a group, a family,” said captain Benjamin Moukandjo as Cameroon began preparations for the final. “He has given a lot of players a chance and we are now a solid squad.”
“It’s a fantastic group of players both on and off the field and they deserve the final,” added Broos. “We’ve shown from the start that we are getting better but it’s still a dream that we’ve got to the final.”