Cameroon were made to work hard to open the defence of their AFCON title with a win on Tuesday, as Ghana became the latest team to be upstaged by an underdog.
Cameroon found it difficult to break down Guinea-Bissau until defender Yaya Banana was left unmarked from a corner to head in the opening goal in the 66th minute. Cameroon’s second came straight after, when substitute striker Stephane Bahoken got a lucky break to score with his first touch three minutes later. The win, which put Cameroon on top of Group F, left coach Clarence Seedorf and his players relieved that something had finally gone right for the country at the tournament. Cameroon were meant to defend their title on home soil, but were dumped as host nation because of poor preparations and the African Cup was handed to Egypt just six months before kick-off.
That also raised complications for the Cameroon team, which lost its automatic place as host and was thrown into a tight battle to qualify. They did, and managed to also overcome a tricky tournament opener in Ismailia. Ghana fought back from 1-0 down after less than two minutes to lead 2-1 against Benin in the group’s second game, also played at the 18,525-capacity Ismailia Stadium. Ghana’s goals came through the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan. But Ghana defender John Boye was given a second yellow card for time wasting and was sent off, and Benin equalised to earn a 2-2 draw.
Forward Mickael Pote scored both goals for Benin, and Ghana were left fuming at what they felt was an injustice over Boye’s red card. He was lining up to take a free kick deep in Ghana’s half when goalkeeper Richard Ofori decided to take it instead. Boye left the free-kick for the goalkeeper, who was some way from the ball at the time and jogging slowly toward it. Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayri decided it was time wasting and punished Boye, provoking an angry response from the Ghana bench, where players jumped up and down and shouted.