ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. â€” It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for Montreal Impact fullback Ambroise Oyongo since helping Cameroon beat Egypt and win the Africa Cup of Nations.
After the comeback win Feb. 5 in Gabon, the celebrations back home involved a state reception by Cameroon president Paul Biya and a tour of the capital Yaounde to show off the trophy. Oyongo and the other players also received medals from the president.
The 25-year-old rejoined the Impact camp in Florida on Saturday. On Monday, he skipped training to get some treatment, but still met the media.
Oyongo, a streak of gold adorning his hair, said the tournament win was good for his country, allowing the people to forget their problems.
Nobody expected the young Cameroon team to win, Oyongo said.
“Ghana, Egypt and Senegal were better teams on paper, but that’s football,” he said in French.
Cameroon last won the African title in 2002. The championship means an invitation to this summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia.
While he savoured the tournament win, Oyongo said Cameroon must now return its focus on World Cup qualifying. The Indomitable Lions (0-0-2) currently are second to Nigeria in a tough qualifying group that also features Algeria and Zambia.
The next round of qualifying matches are set for August.
Substitute Vincent Aboubakar, on a beautiful individual effort, scored the winning goal in the 89th minute to give Cameroon a dramatic 2-1 win over Egypt in Libreville, Gabon.
The tournament win vaulted Cameroon 29 places in the world rankings to No. 33. Egypt climbed 12 places to No. 23.
Oyongo said the Cameroon players have to keep their heads firmly on their shoulders and continue to work hard, noting in soccer you can be a champion one day and a zero the next.
He said the tournament had been good preparation for the MLS campaign. Montreal kicks off the regular season March 4 at San Jose.
Impact assistant coach Jason Di Tullio said the team was happy to have Oyongo back.
“He lives his life with a positiveness in his surroundings so we’re happy to have him back,” Di Tullio said. “We’re very proud of him and we’re excited to get him back on the field.”
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press