YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — New coach Jean-Paul Akono turned to the past on Monday to restore Cameroon's recently flagging team spirit and help it overturn a first-leg deficit and qualify for next year's African Cup in South Africa.
After convincing striker Samuel Eto'o to end his boycott of the national team, Akono recalled another two players who were on his team when Cameroon won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics 12 years ago.
The 33-year-old defender Pierre Wome and midfielder Modeste Mbami, who last played for his country in 2009, were both included in a 26-man squad for the decisive second-leg game against Cape Verde. Their international careers had appeared to be over, as had that of 32-year-old Mohamadou Idrissou, who is back in the team for the first time since the 2010 World Cup.
Experience and current form were the key factors in the recalls, Akono told reporters in Yaounde, with Cameroon facing an embarrassing elimination against minnow Cape Verde.
"Also, there's a need to get the true spirit of cohesion within the team and put them back on their feet," the Olympic-title winning coach said.
Akono replaced Frenchman Denis Lavagne after Cameroon lost 2-0 in Cape Verde last month in the first leg of the final qualifying round for the African Cup.
Eto'o was absent for that game having decided on a self-imposed exile from national team duties in protest at what he called "amateurish" organization. He had only just returned from an eight-month ban for his part in a players' strike after arguments over unpaid bonuses and playing fees.
Eto'o announced his availability again last week after the intervention of Cameroon President Paul Biya ensured the former captain met with Akono and other government and team officials. He was national team captain when he left in protest, but Akono delayed the decision on who would be his leader until closer to the game against Cape Verde.
Since his appointment last month, Akono has traveled regularly to Europe to try to convince players like Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto and France-based midfielder Jean Makoun to return to international duty. Makoun was also selected Monday.
A four-time African champion, Cameroon failed to qualify for the last African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and is precariously close to missing out in South Africa. The home leg against Cape Verde is on Oct. 14.