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CAN: Rigobert Song serene before Nigeria-Cameroon

Captain in 2000, he converted the last shot on goal in the final against the “Super Eagles” (2-2, 5 tab to 4), despite the boos from the National Stadium in Lagos.

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CAN: Rigobert Song serene before Nigeria-Cameroon

Captain in 2000, he converted the last shot on goal in the final against the “Super Eagles” (2-2, 5 tab to 4), despite the boos from the National Stadium in Lagos. A real nightmare for Nigeria, beaten for a shot on goal from Victor Ikpeba who seemed to have crossed the line. But pressure is a long-time companion of “Rigo”. “I'm someone special, I don't panic, I don't stress,” he assured after the victory against Gambia (3-2), which led 2-1 in the 87th minute...

Since he took the post of coach, criticism has accompanied him, a Cameroonian journalist even asked him if he felt “up to the task”. His choices are sometimes confusing. His team had been harmless in the first match of the 2022 World Cup against Switzerland (1-0), and he came to Ivory Coast without the best pedigree in attack, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who admittedly hardly plays anymore at Bayern Munich.

Another example, Song lined up in the first match of this CAN against Guinea (1-1) a winger, Karl Toko-Ekambi at the forefront and a center forward, Franck Magri, on the side. “I listen, I understand the criticism, I know what I have to do, I stay calm,” Song replies placidly. He also repeats that “Cameroonians do not want to understand that we have a new generation of players. We are rebuilding.”

But a miracle always comes to save him, like against Gambia. Facing Serbia, who led 3-1 at the World Cup, her team came back to 3-3, and she signed a historic victory against a dominating Brazil (1-0) on a counter at the end of the match. Vincent Aboubakar, favorite scorer finally recovered and ready to return against Nigeria.

Song's coaching career was born under the sign of a miracle: a last-second qualification for the World Cup in Algeria (0-1/2-1 ap). It was his second match on the bench. This goal from Toko Ekambi in Blida at the very end of extra time, when Algeria had just scored, recalled the incredible sense of victory for the Cameroonians, which Song player perfectly embodied. “’Rigo’ is the statue of the Commander,” his French deputy, Sébastien Migné, explained to AFP. “In Cameroon, he is the Immortal after what happened to him.”

When in 2016 a stroke almost felled Grand “Manyan” (which means “brother” in Bassa, his mother tongue), an entire country gathered in prayers and the phoenix rose. “I've already been told dead and I'm alive, I'm here,” said the coach in reference to this episode before the decisive match against Gambia.

He still raises doubts among supporters, as a tactician or as a manager, with the strange episode André Onana, goalkeeper authorized to arrive late and finally only fielded in the second match, lost against Senegal (3-1).

But like this victory against the “Scorpions”, Song still embodies the “hemle”, this Cameroonian sense of combat. Song told the website camlions.com that he had drawn his rage to win from a difficult childhood, fatherless when he was only a few months old. “I ate the stone,” he imagined. He then covered himself with gold, notably in 2000 against the same Nigeria. And speaking of superstition, the Houphouët-Boigny stadium is precisely where the "Indomitable Lions won their first crown as African champions. Song was 7 years old, and it was against Nigeria...

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