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FIFA says Cameroon #1 in Africa - 2002-02-27

Thanks to their recent title at the 23rd African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Mali, "The Indomitable Lions" of Cameroon are now the highest-ranked team in Africa, according to world football's governing body, FIFA.

"The Indomitable Lions" moved up 19 places from January in the FIFA rankings, which were released February 13. Cameroon is ranked 18th overall. That's 4 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-2, followed by Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco.

Cameroon's rise in the rankings comes after its record-tying 4th Nations Cup championship in Mali. In the final February 10, Cameroon defeated Senegal, 3-2, on penalty kicks. It was the first time the Senegalese have qualified for the Nations Cup final. Senegal made the biggest move of any team in the FIFA rankings, jumping 23 places from January to number 45 overall. The next set of FIFA rankings will be released March 20.

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, scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo. He described the pitch as "a little bit rough" and said it made things difficult during the game. 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 Sydney Olympics. He was one of 3 players who scored a tournament-high 3 goals at the Nations Cup in Mali.