The Indomitable Lions became the first African nation to qualify for the quarter-finals of a World Cup 32 years ago, on 23 June 1990.
San-Paolo Stadium (now renamed Diego-Armando-Maradona), 23 June 1990. Cameroon is playing Colombia in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Italy. The referee has just kicked off the second half of extra time. Neither nation has managed to score so far. Suddenly, in the first minute of the final quarter of the match, François Omam-Biyik played Roger Milla into the box. The oldest player in the competition brushed aside two Colombian defenders before firing past the keeper. Incredible! The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon lead 1-0 (106th).
Roger Milla is a senior player who has given his all for our country throughout his career and has come on as a wild card. We had to play with him and for him. When I gave him that pass, I knew he had the expertise to put the ball in the net.
As he and his team-mates wondered whether they should fall back to defend their lead, Roger Milla made a statement shortly afterwards, taking advantage of a mistake by goalkeeper René Higuita to make it 2-0 to Cameroon (109′). Bernado Redin then reduced the score (2-1, 116th), but his goal could not bring glory for the Latin American side.
It was the first time in history that Cameroon had played in a World Cup quarter-final against Argentina, Romania and Colombia, and Roger Milla and a golden generation of players were the first African nation to do so.” This match was the expression of solidarity in the game, the communion in the facts and the determination to place our country where no representative of Africa has managed,” says François Omam-Biyik, heroic scorer against Maradona’s Argentina in the opening match of the group. Our qualification for the quarter-finals of this World Cup was the best moment for us after the opening match won against Argentina. What a symbol!”
It is obvious: without Roger Milla, Cameroon would not have managed to achieve such a feat. Even if he was not alone on the pitch, the former striker of Tonnerre Kalara de Yaounde was a key asset in the Lions’ fine run to the quarter-finals against England.
However, the man with 102 caps could have missed this tournament. It took the intervention of the Head of State, Paul Biya, to see coach Valeri Nepomniachi give him a place in his squad.
Roger Milla has remained the same as ever; a decisive player,” said Omam-Biyik. His position as a joker has been beneficial to the group. If all the retired players could come back to play like him, it would only be good for the country and the younger generation.
Milla’s goal setter added: “Well done to Roger Milla and thanks to the whole team who, throughout the competition, remained a family. We shared the same emotions, the same dreams with the key word being the happiness and satisfaction of our people. A people that is priceless.