||20 Jul 1956
1982 and 1990
soccer had its first real break-through on the world stage in 1982. Cameroon
held Peru, eventual winners Italy and semifinalists Poland to draws in
the first round group. They only let in one goal, a lucky header by Italian
forward Graziani, but it was enough to send them home because Italy had
2-2 in goals compared to Cameroon's 1-1. Thomas N'Kono was the main reason
to their impressive defensive record. He showed goalkeeping at its finest
and was nominated as one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament. Quite
an achievement for the 26-year-old who was virtually unknown to the soccerworld
outside Africa at the time.
African Player of the Year in 1979 and 1982, he stayed on in Spain after
the 1982 World Cup with Barcelona club Español. With this club he
stayed faithful for nearly a decade until he retired. With his native club
back in Cameroon, Canon Yaounde, he won five league championships before
he travelled to Europe. He won the African Nations Cup in 1984, but missed
out on qualifying for the Mexico World Cup two years later.
qualified convincingly to the World Cup in Italy 1990, but not many fancied
them to emulate their great showing eight years earlier. After their sensational
1-0 win over defending champions Argentina in the opening game, Cameroon
continued in style until they were knocked out by England in the quarterfinals.
N'Kono had another fine tournament and could retire as a proud man. He
was the first African goalkeeper to earn a contract in a professional club
in Europe, and the first to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup match. Apart
from the 4-0 defeat to Russia in 1990, a match which meant nothing to Cameroon
as they already had made it to the second round, N'Kono only let in four
goals from open play in seven games in his World Cup career. A remarkable
record knowing how fragile the African sides have been defensively over
enough N'Kono was tempted out of retirement to join the Cameroon team in
the 1994 World Cup as third choice goalkeeper, but didn't play a minute
in that tournament. He ended his career there and is currently working
as goalkeeper coach for the Cameroon national team.
| 1982 | 1990
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