But the skipper’s 53rd minute strike was cancelled out in the closing stages. Juary Soares headed in Zezinho’s free-kick to lap up the adulation of his team mates.
Soares, 24, plies his trade in the Portuguese second division with Mafra. But he will be forever heralded in his homeland as the first player from Guinea Bissau to score at the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.
That it rescued a point for the debutants in front of a partisan crowd at the Stade de l’Amitié will make the strike all the sweeter. Burkina Faso, runners-up in South Africa in 2013, also needed a late equaliser to salvage a point.
Cameroon took the lead 10 minutes before the pause. Newly anointed skipper Benjamin Moukandjo struck a sumptuous free-kick. The goal capped a period of Cameroon dominance and Hugo Broos’s side looked the more likely to add to their advantage. But they squandered their openings and were pegged back 15 minutes from time when Issoufou Dayo nodded in from close range.
The lack of precision clearly irked Broos. “We don’t know how to score,” he said after the game. “We had three great chances. Before the second-half we were 1-0 up and there were two occasions when we had a player on his own in front the goal but we didn’t score. If we’d put the ball in the net, the game would have been over.
“And if we had won, we would be in a good position at the top of the group.”
Cameroon play their second game of the tournament in Libreville on 18 January against Guinea Bissau. Before that clash, hosts Gabon entertain Burkina Faso.
Despite the draw, Broos said he had been impressed with the attitude of his squad which entered the tournament digesting the withdrawal of several experienced players who preferred to remain with their clubs in Europe.
“We dominated our opponent,” Broos added. “I saw my team play well. I saw a team with qualities. I think Cameroon is ready and we’ll need to stay at this level if we are going to make it to the last eight.”