Cameroon manager Hugo Broos suggested the players who declined to join up his with side were regretting their decision after the Indomitable Lions’ improbable run to the African Nations Cup title.
A triumph in Gabon seemed unlikely for Gabon after as many as eight players — including Liverpool defender Joel Matip — declined call-ups before the tournament began.
Broos acknowledged the difficulties his side faced before taking home their fifth ANC title and first since 2002.
“There was a lot of trouble before, players who wouldn’t come with us,” Broos said after Sunday’s 2-1 win over Egypt.
“OK, it’s their decision. But maybe they are saying now to themselves, ‘S—! Why didn’t I go with them?'”
Broos said all of his players pulled together and allowed them to overcome the squad uncertainty.
“Yes [the title] shows the character, but that I knew from the beginning,” Broos said. “I said a few times, I do not have 23 players, I have 23 friends. It’s really unbelievable… I think this is the reason why we won.”
After a lacklustre group stage featured draws and Burkina Faso and hosts Gabon and a slim win over Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon won three successive knockout games against overwhelming odds, advancing past Senegal and Ghana to reach Sunday’s final.
‘We came here and I think nobody thought we would go so far,” Broos said. “We tried to get through the first round. We did it. So we said, ‘OK, let’s see what happens against Senegal.’ We won the game again.
“Then you get a boost of confidence and from that time we believed that if we got a bit lucky we could win the final.”
The title also secured Cameroon a spot at this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, where Broos’ side will face the likes of Germany, Chile and Australia, and he said the Lions must still get better.
“We still have to improve. That’s proved by the first half. We were not good first half, certainly not the first 25 minutes. So this is something we have to work on,” Broos said.
“We thought from the beginning that Egypt would try to score very quick, but you see we can’t control such situations, so there’s still a lot to do.”