The Best African Teams of the 2000s: #5

We’re now into the final five of Michael McDuffie’s rankings of the Top Ten African National Teams of the 2000s.

At number five is Cameroon’s side at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup.

After a disappointing group stage exit in the prior year’s World Cup, Cameroon set their sights on redemption at the Confederations Cup. The Indomitable Lions’ victory at AFCON 2002 granted them the spot in the tournament. 

Cameroon dominated their group, which included 2002 World Cup winners Brazil, who were widely considered the world’s best team at the time. A late Samuel Eto’o goal secured a 1-0 win over the world champions. A late penalty goal from Geremi in the team’s next match secured another 1-0 win over the World Cup’s third place team, Turkey. A 0-0 draw with the United States ensured Cameroon would top the group with seven points and no losses. 

The semifinal and final results became secondary to everyone after the tragic and sudden collapse of Cameroon’s Marc-Vivien Foé. The midfielder collapsed and passed away in the second half of his team’s 1-0 win over Colombia due to an underlying heart condition, a moment that caused great sadness and an outpouring of support. 

Despite the desire of many players for both Senegal and their final opponent France to not play the final, the match was played. A 0-0 full time result was broken by a Thierry Henry golden goal for France. Out of respect, Henry did not celebrate the goal, he instead somberly pointed to the sky. At the trophy presentation, France captain Marcel Desailly received the silverware for his team, but held the trophy in unison with Senegal captain Rigobert Song rather than hoisting it in celebration. A powerful gesture of solidarity that went deeper than just football for a player and team that made their country proud.