Cameroon: Five Highlights of the Indomitable Lions' Surprise Africa Cup of Nations Victory

Cameroon AFCON 2017
The Cameroon football squad holds up the winner's trophy as they celebrate beating Egypt 2-1 to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final at the Stade de l'Amitie Sino-Gabonaise in Libreville, Gabon, on February 5. Cameroon was an unlikely victor in the tournament. ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty

Cameroon were crowned champions of Africa for a fifth time on Sunday evening after overcoming Egypt in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the continent's premier football tournament.

The West African team, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, triumphed over the Pharaohs thanks to an impressive late goal from forward Vincent Aboubakar, which gave the team a 2-1 victory.

Cameroon were never favorites to win at AFCON 2017, having seen a swathe of Europe-based players refuse to play for the country before it kicked off. But the team, led by Belgian coach Hugo Broos, managed to brush off higher-ranked opponents and see out a nervy penalty shootout en route to victory in the final.

Here are five of the highlights from Cameroon's AFCON triumph:

1. The pre-tournament exodus

Broos' preparations for AFCON 2017—a tournament Cameroon has not won for 15 years—were jeopardized when eight of the players he had named in a provisional 35-man squad rejected their call-ups.

The missing included two English Premier League stars: Liverpool defender Joel Matip —who has not played for Cameroon since the 2014 World Cup after a dispute with the previous coaching staff—and Allan Nyom, a defender for West Bromwich Albion.

The Cameroon coach slammed the players for putting "personal interest above those of the national team." Following the team's victory on Sunday, Broos said that some of those who rejected the chance to play may be regretting their decision. "OK, it's their decision. But maybe they are saying now to themselves...'Why didn't I go with them?'" said the coach, according to ESPN.

Joel Matip
Cameroon's player Joel Matip. FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty

2. Knocking out the hosts

The 2017 tournament was hosted by Gabon. Despite criticisms of the playing surfaces and unfinished stadia, Gabon still had the advantage of a home crowd when it took on Cameroon in the final group game. But the voices were drowned out by Cameroon after it nullified a Gabon team including Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to send the hosts out at the first hurdle.

Gabon came very close to securing their progress from the group stage, and in turn knocking Cameroon out: Gabonese midfielder Denis Bouanga crashed a shot off the post in the final minute, before the rebound was saved by Cameroonian goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa. Had Bouanga's shot crept in, Cameroon's participation in the tournament would have been curtailed in its early stages.

3. Thwarting Africa's most expensive player

After progressing from their group, Cameroon came up against Senegal in the quarterfinal. The highest-ranked team at the tournament, Senegal also possessed in its ranks the costliest African footballer ever: Sadio Mané, whom Liverpool purchased from Southampton in 2016 for around £34 million ($45.5 million).

Mané has been on blistering form for Liverpool this season, scoring nine goals and setting up four more, and scored twice in the group stages at AFCON 2017. But following a 0-0 stalemate in the quarterfinal against Cameroon, Senegal's star striker failed to score the decisive penalty, with Ondoa pulling off a great save.

Sadio Mane Senegal Cameroon
Senegal's forward Sadio Mané. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty

4. Breaching Egypt's stout defense

Egypt built their run to the AFCON 2017 final upon a nigh-impenetrable defense. The Pharaohs only conceded a single goal in the five matches before the final—in the semifinal against Burkina Faso—with veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, the tournament's oldest player at 44, proving difficult to beat. In fact, Egypt had not conceded two goals in any game since November 2014, according to CNN, which made Cameroon's triumph all the more spectacular.

5. Famous fans for the Indomitable Lions

Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm of some modern Cameroonian footballers for their national team, the country had some legends backing it to victory on Sunday. Roger Milla, named in 2007 as the best African footballer of the past half-century, was backing the team, while Samuel Eto'o—the top goal scorer in AFCON history—traveled to the Gabonese capital Libreville to watch Sunday's final. The winning goal is one that both Milla and Eto'o would have been proud of.

Cameroon: Five Highlights of the Indomitable Lions' Surprise Africa Cup of Nations Victory | Sports