Thanks to their recent Afican Cup of Nations title in Mali, "The Indomitable Lions" of Cameroon are now the highest-ranked soccer team in Africa, according to world football's governing body, FIFA. Cameroon made a big jump in FIFA's latest set of world rankings.
"The Indomitable Lions" moved up 19 places from January in the FIFA rankings, which were released Wednesday. Cameroon is ranked 18th overall. That's four places higher than the team's previous best position in the rankings, recorded in October 1993.
As a result, Cameroon replaced Tunisia as the top-ranked team in Africa. Tunisia falls back to number-two, followed by Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.
Cameroon's rise in the rankings comes after its record-tying fourth African Cup of Nations in Mali. In the final February 10, Cameroon defeated Senegal, three-two, on penalty kicks. It was the first time the Senegalese have qualified for the cup final. Senegal made the biggest move of any team in the FIFA rankings, jumping 23 places from January to number 45 overall.
In winning African football's premier event, Cameroon overcame several obstacles, including intense sub-Saharan heat and the poor quality of the pitches [fields] in Mali. Several players criticized the pitches, saying they were hard and bumpy, causing the ball to take erratic bounces. Cameroon's star striker, Patrick Mboma, commented on the pitches after scoring the game-winning goal in a one-nothing victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We didn't play a very great game," he said. "But the most important thing is to get the three points for the win. We had some opportunities. Sometimes we produced good football, sometimes not. But it was also difficult with the field. It was a little bit rough."
Patrick Mboma was voted the African Footballer of the Year in 2000, when he also helped Cameroon win the gold medal in men's soccer at the Olympics in Sydney. He was one of three players who scored a tournament-high three goals at the African Cup of Nations in Mali.