By Brian Homewood
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Cameroon paid for failing to find the right balance as the holders went out of the Africa Cup of Nations at the hands of neighbours Nigeria.
Having struggled to turn possession into scoring chances in their previous two matches where they failed to score, Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf managed to solve that problem against Nigeria only to be let down by his previously impeccable defence in a 3-2 round-of-16 defeat.
“I feel sorry for my guys, they worked hard and they played well but it’s football, only one can win in the end,” Seedorf said in the wake of Saturday’s defeat.
“We can be proud of the fighting spirit we showed but this is sport. This is where everyone needs to be united and continue to build for the future.”
Seedorf said that before the game, Cameroon — who did not concede a goal in their three group matches — had concentrated on improving their attack.
“We worked on the last third of the field and scored two goals. Our defence as a team made some mistakes that we paid for with a high price, In attack, we produced more. I am satisfied with what we produced, we could have expressed better football at certain moments.
“There were, for sure, a lot of positive things which are hard to see at the moment.”
That loss left the Dutchman facing an uncertain future with a team which generally does not tolerate failure.
“Maybe you want to give us a few days,” said Seedorf when asked about what might happen next. “My future is not so important.”
Seedorf has been in charge of Cameroon for just under a year and his 12 games have produced four wins, five draws and three defeats.
However, it would have been unfair to have expected a repeat of their campaign in 2017 where they surprisingly won the tournament.
The current side is far from the best that the country has produced and failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup.
Apart from Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper Andre Onana, the biggest name in the squad is arguably Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and he started only eight league matches for Paris St Germain last season.
Seedorf’s foray into coaching has so far had mixed results.He was dismissed from his first job at AC Milan after four months in 2014 although that seemed harsh as he had overseen an improvement compared to his predecessor Massimiliano Allegri.
He then had five months as coach of China’s Shenzhen FC and in 2017-18 took over at Deportivo Coruna halfway through the season but could not prevent them being relegated.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been working in this group, being in Africa especially,” he said. “For the future, we will see what will come.
“I think we played three good matches in the group stage although we didn’t score as much as we should have… I am very proud about what our team has done over the last month.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Clare Fallon)