Johannesburg — Brentford forward Bryan Mbeumo scored and Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana made several superb saves as Cameroon beat Burundi 3-0 on Tuesday to reach the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.
Mbeumo punished a careless pass to put the Indomitable Lions ahead 25 seconds into the second half in extreme humidity in Garoua.
Christopher Wooh added a second goal just before the hour in front of a capacity 30,000 crowd at Stade Roumde Adjia in northwestern Cameroon.
Garoua-born Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar completed the scoring with an added-time goal in the final qualifier for the 2023 tournament.
Victory took Cameroon from last to first in the three-team Group C with seven points and Namibia, who had a bye, also qualified with five points. Burundi had four and were eliminated.
Cameroon are the second most successful country in the Cup of Nations, winning the African showpiece five times.
MERCI GAROUA 💚❤️💛#CAMEROUN 🇨🇲 3️⃣➖0️⃣ 🇧🇮 #BURUNDI
⚽️ Bryan Mbeumo
⚽️ Christopher Wooh
⚽️ Aboubakar Vincent
🏟️ Stade Roumde Adjia de Garoua #CMRBUR| #GOLIONS | #ALLEZLESLIONS | #LETSROARTOGETHER | #INDOMPTABLES | #CAPASSE pic.twitter.com/dcLHwiWZmz
— Les Lions Indomptables Officiel (@LIndomptables) September 12, 2023
Their qualification means the top 16-ranked teams in Africa are among the 24 qualifiers for the January 13-February finals, which the Ivory Coast will host.
Burundi, 98 places below Cameroon in the world rankings and qualifiers only once for the Cup of Nations, were the superior side in the opening half only to be repeatedly foiled by Onana.
The recent Manchester United signing from Inter Milan made three excellent saves in his first appearance since being sent home by Cameroon during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Onana reportedly had a tactical disagreement with coach and former star Rigobert Song and announced his retirement from international football soon after.
Song admitted his team had “their backs against the wall” before hosting Burundi and recalled Onana, saying it was “a natural choice as he is best Cameroon goalkeeper”.
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Lucky to be level at half-time, Cameroon snatched the lead 25 seconds after the restart thanks to a gift-wrapped goal that changed the course of the game.
Burundi goalkeeper Onesime Rukundo pushed the ball inside the area to Christophe Nduwarugira, whose weak return pass was intercepted by Mbeumo, and the Premier League star made no mistake.
The killer second goal on 59 minutes came when Burundi failed to clear a corner and the loose ball was hammered into the net by Wooh for his first Cameroon goal.
Playing in his birthplace, it was fitting that veteran Aboubakar should score. He took advantage of sloppy defending to round Rukundo and slam the ball into the net.
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