One of Italia '90's Indomitable Lions, Thomas Libiih, Recalls His World Cup Memories

African teams promise unprecedented brilliance to their fans at the World Cup in Qatar
Thomas Libiih, former global player, winner of CAN 1998 and winning coach of CAN U17 2019. Via Getty Images
Thomas Libiih, former global player, winner of CAN 1998 and winning coach of CAN U17 2019. (Courtesy: Thomas Libiih).

The African teams qualified for the 2022 World Cup are preparing to enter the arena of matches, hoping to pull off a surprise this time, because the conditions will be favorable. In addition to the advancement of their levels and their success in persuading some international stars to represent them, their ambitions have recently emerged through statements made by coaches and players.

The World Cup is magical, and its allure is heightened by the fact that it only happens every four years. Teams with a good reputation can enter the tournament and then fail to advance, as Spain did in 2014. Unknown players emerge as stars on the world stage — think Thomas Müller in 2010. We can't help but be drawn into the story of an underdog nation as their team makes inroads into the competition at every World Cup. Cameroon was that team at the 1990.

 

Cameroon At 1990 FIFA World Cup (Cyril Makanaky, Emmanuel Kunde, Jean-Claude Pagal, Benjamin Massing, Thomas N'Kono, Francois Omam-Biyik, Thomas Libiih, Louis-Paul Mfede, Emmanuel Maboang, Stephen Tataw and Bertin Ebwelle (Via Wikipedia).

No team has surpassed the Central Africans' performance in Italy, where they reached the quarterfinals and were seven minutes away from the final four. Their adventure came to an end in Naples, when England came back from two goals down to win in extra time and set up a semifinal meeting with eventual winners Germany.

Cameroonian football legend and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ambassador Samuel Eto'o went far in his expectations of his country's performance in the upcoming tournament, stressing that the Untamed Lions will write history and make glory, becoming the first African team to win the World Cup title.

Eto'o's optimistic predictions included -- all five African teams competing in the World Cup, where he expected Morocco to qualify for the final to face Cameroon, all African teams to reach the round of 16, and Cameroon, Morocco, and Senegal to top their groups.

Cameroon, on the other hand, hopes to make amends for losing the last African Cup of Nations at home in front of its fans. Cameroon has qualified for the World Cup the most times, seven times, in 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2014.

Rigobert Song, one of the Indomitable Lions' most capped players, was appointed coach in February after the African Cup of Nations. The team is in Group G with Serbia, Switzerland, and Brazil, which is one of the most successful teams in competition history, having won the title five times. Cameroon advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, but have failed to advance beyond the group stage in five subsequent appearances. But this time, with arguably Africa's best frontline at their disposal, they hope to break the curse.

 

Roger Milla at Italia ’90. (Photo by Juan Pedro Fernández Riau).

 

The Cameroon national team will be armed with three European-style players in the 2022 World Cup to match their World Cup success in 1990: André-Frank Zambo Anguissa of the Italian team Napoli, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting of Bayern Munich, and André Onana of the Italian team Inter.

The trio of Anguissa, Moting, and Onana are the most prominent members of Cameroon's team, which is ranked 43rd in the world. In the last eight meetings between the two teams, the Bayern Munich striker, Anguissa, scored nine goals.

During an interview with Majalla, Thomas Libiih, the former Cameroon international, who played in the 1990 World Cup, relived his African experience and expressed his expectations for the 2022 World Cup.

Libiih is a retired Cameroonian footballer who played for various clubs including Tonnerre Yaoundé and Ohud Medina. He was one of the best players in Italy in 1990.

He competed in both the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups. Libiih played for LDU Portoviejo in Ecuador for a short time. Guy Stephane Essame founded FC Lotus-Terek Yaoundé, a Cameroonian feeder team of Russian FC Terek Grozny.

 

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

"I had the honor of representing the Cameroon national team in the World Cups of 1990 and 1994," Thomas Libiih began his talk with Majalla.

"My World Cup memories are vivid. I'll never forget the historic moments in the 1990 edition, such as defeating world champion Argentina, reaching the quarter-finals, and playing a perfect match against England," Libiih added.

In response to Samuel Eto'o's claim that the Cameroon national team will win the World Cup, Libiih stated: "Each of us has our own point of view and sees things through the lens of our own culture. Yes, it's football, and nothing is impossible, but we must always respect our opponents, and ultimately, I respect Eto'o's viewpoint."

In terms of his predictions for African football and the five teams that will represent the continent in the World Cup, Libiih stated: "The brown continent has a great history in football, but it has always been flawed by not dealing more prominently in major international tournaments such as the Olympics and the World Cup, but I hope that this changes in a copy 2022."

On the Cameroon national team's fortunes, he said, "We hope to appear in good shape that meets the expectations of our fans, but we must be cautious because no match in the first round is the same."

"I hope that we will provide good technical levels, as we are playing in a tournament that is considered the largest in the world, and respect all the teams and big stars participating," he added, "and that we will also express ourselves in the World Cup in a better way, and that the performance of our players improves from one match to the next."

 

Cameroon team picture during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations AFCON Finals football Cameroon and Ethiopia at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, on 13 January 2022. (Photo by Muzi Ntombela/Sports Inc via CFP).

Regarding Egypt and Algeria's absence from the World Cup, he stated: "It is a huge loss for African football that there is no big duo of their size, but they must come back and rise in order to eventually reach the World Cup, and I have all respect for the participating Arab trio Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and I see that they have great capabilities and potentials that will help them go far in the World Cup."

On his prediction for the team that will win the World Cup, Libiih concluded his interview by saying: "This is difficult to predict before the tournament begins. All teams are equally fortunate, even if some have a better chance due to differences in capabilities. All of the teams are excellent, with an honorable World Cup history and players at the highest level; perhaps after the first round, we can guess based on results, performance, and individual differences."


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