Clarence Seedorf says pay dispute has 'reinforced team spirit' in Cameroon camp ahead of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations opener
The African champions begin their title defence in Group F against Guinea-Bissau - the same first-round opponents they beat on their way to winning Afcon two years ago
Clarence Seedorf has denied a pay dispute with the Cameroon football association that delayed the team's arrival ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has had a detrimental affect on the squad.
If anything, Seedorf said, the dispute had actually bolstered team spirit.
The squad had refused to embark for Egypt last Thursday, calling for their bonus fees to be doubled for appearing at the tournament, which they won two years ago. But they later agreed to travel without any promise of more money.
"Actually the bonus crisis has reinforced the team spirit and the determination within the squad to perform well," the Dutchman said. "There was some tension but the players have behaved maturely and they've decided to be here to fight for Cameroon.
"The players have maintained the same intensity and concentration. The team is ready and they can't wait to start the first match," Seedorf said ahead of Tuesday's Group F opener against Guinea Bissau in Ismailia.
Cameroon begin their title defence against the same team they beat in their first match on their way to lifting a fifth Cup of Nations in Gabon two years ago.
They have endured a difficult time since beating this Egypt in the 2017 final. Cameroon was stripped of hosting 2019 Afcon by the Confederation of African Football over concerns the country was woefully under prepared with Egypt chosen as replacements.
Hugo Broos, the Belgian who guided the Indomitable Lions to success in Gabon, was replaced last year on a permanent basis by Seedorf, who brought in his former Netherlands teammate Patrick Kluivert as his assistant.
Seedorf's managerial achievements thus far pale in comparison to an illustrious playing career.
As a playmaking midfielder Seedorf won the Uefa Champions League with Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan as well as several domestic titles in all three countries..
But as a club manager in Italy, China and Spain he flopped, winning just 17 of 52 matches and being sacked three times after short spells in charge.
Since replacing Broos Seedorf has won three, drawn three and lost three matches in charge of the five-time African champions.
Anything less than a quarter-final showing is likely to signal the end of his time in charge.
"We need to perform and show on the field why we are title favourites too. I think we have the talent and the possibility to do something very important," Seedorf said.
"The way the team is working at the moment, I'm very happy about that and convinced that we are ready to fight to retain our trophy, knowing that we will face very good teams during the event.”
Cameroon have enough talent at their disposal to warrant favourites tag in a group comprising Guinea-Bissau, Benin and Ghana.
With prolific Porto forward absent through injury the goalscoring burden falls on the shoulders of Karl Toko who is coming off the back of a 17-goal season with Spanish club Villarreal.
Goalkeeper Andre Onana was part of the youthful Ajax team who made a thrilling run to the Champions League semi-finals. His back-up is veteran Carlos Kameni, who at 35 is likely appearing at his last Cup of Nations.
"We have prepared well and are highly motivated. There is a lot of talent within the squad and a good mix of youth and experience," Seedorf said.
A Guinea-Bissau side coached by local Baciro Cande and captained by Slovakia-based midfielder Zezinho lost a warm-up game against Angola 2-0 in Portugal and then slipped under the radar.
Published: June 25, 2019 09:45 AM