Cameroon take on Burkina Faso amid row over allegiances
Cameroon begin their quest for a fifth Africa Cup of Nations trophy on Saturday against Burkina Faso seemingly on the losing side of a club v country row.
Several of Cameroon's leading players have snubbed the offer to feature in the biennial tournament to concentrate on cementing their places in their domestic sides.
Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Schalke striker Eric Choupo-Moting were among the stars who rejected call-ups from coach Hugo Broos to focus on their careers at European outfits.
The Belgian’s response has been an attack on the timing of the continental showpiece and a call to move the event to a different time of year.
"Times are changing,” said Broos. “Before, certain players were happy to come and play for Cameroon. Now some clubs put pressure on their players. Those who are coming to the ends of their contracts prefer to stay in Europe in order to negotiate better deals.
"I think the Cup of Nations needs to be played at a different time of the year. It doesn't come around at a good time."
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which organises the event, changed the staging of the tournament from even to odd numbered years in 2013 in order to avoid a clash with the World Cup. It has repeatedly ruled out moving the dates of the competition.
"There are players missing who could have raised the level of the team. It is their decision and their responsibility," said Broos, whose side follow their game against Burkina Faso with matches against Guinea Bissau and Gabon.
Cameroon were unable to advance from the group stages two years ago in Equatorial Guinea.
That disappointing performance came after they failed to qualify for the 16 team finals in 2012 and 2013. Before that they were one of the most consistent sides on the continent claiming back to back trophies in 2000 and 2002 and reaching at least the quarter-finals in subsequent competitions until 2010.
Moukandjo fears no-one
In the absence of experienced internationals, Broos has anointed as skipper the Lorient striker Benjamin Moukandjo. The 28-year-old admitted there will be pressure trying to perform as well as rally the troops on the field.
"I am proud. But becoming captain doesn't really change things," Moukandjo told beIN Sports France. "Of course it comes with responsibility. There are five or six potential captains in the team and we all try to communicate with one another.”
Moukandjo has scored six goals in 36 appearances for his country since his debut against Senegal in June 2011. Gabon 2017 will be his first tournament as captain.
"We don't fear anyone but we respect all the teams who have qualified,” he said.
"It is going to be a great competition. It has been a while now since we made it past the first round. Our main aim this time will be to do that and go further.
"If we can get out of the group then we will look at our target again and reassess it as we go along. People will look at our group and say we should get out of it but we still need to go and win the matches."
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe