MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AFP) – Cameroon skipper Stephane Mbia says the absence of Samuel Eto’o from this year’s Africa Cup of Nations is a blow for the whole continent as the Indomitable Lions prepare for their opening game of the 2015 finals.
“He is a great player who we will really miss. Certain people didn’t like the way he was but he is a good guy. He will be hugely missed as a person,” said Mbia of Eto’o, who is focusing on his club Everton after retiring from international football following last year’s World Cup in Brazil.
“I think he could have continued but he decided to stop and it was disappointing for Africa as a whole and Cameroon too, to lose a great player like Samuel Eto’o.”
The four-time African player of the year, now 33, has enjoyed a glittering career, winning the UEFA Champions League three times and forming part of the Cameroon sides that lifted the Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002.
They have not won the continental title since, coming closest in 2008 when they were beaten by Egypt in the final.
Volker Finke’s rejuvenated side have been tipped to do well at this year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea, but Mbia said he will settle for an encouraging showing with one eye on 2019, when Cameroon will host the competition for the first time since 1972.
“We will take things one game at a time but I think the most important thing is to prepare for 2019, which will be at home,” added the Sevilla man, who was appointed as the new captain in time for the Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.