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'A lion never dies', vows Cameroon coach Rigobert Song

Rigobert Song of Cameroon Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The Indomitable Lions coach is confident that his CHAN side can do what Cameroon do best, and bounce back from adversity at the ongoing African Nations Championship.

The Central Africans were handed a shock 1-0 defeat in their tournament opener against Congo-Brazzaville in Agadir on Tuesday, but the legendary defender has backed his side to show their true colours amidst the difficult circumstances.

"A lion never becomes anything else, we're still the Indomitable Lions," Song told KweséESPN ahead of Cameroon's second group game against Angola on Saturday. "We know that now [the nation] are waiting for us, we know it.

"We'll still try to stay at our level, whatever happens, as bad as it gets, a lion never dies, he's always still standing," he added. "So we'll battle to win this competition."

A year ago, at the African Cup of Nations, Cameroon entered the tournament amidst low expectations following several high-profile withdrawals.

However, while they started slowly - being held by Burkina Faso before coming from behind to beat minnows Guinea-Bissau - they grew into the tournament and ultimately ended the tournament as champions, coming from behind to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final to win their fifth continental crown.

"That's always the strength of Cameroon, when we're in difficulty, we react," Song added. "Maybe now it will be the case."

During Song's own glittering international playing career, he too was part of Cameroonian sides that started campaigns slowly but improved as the tournament wore on, often amidst public criticism.

Before the defender's time, they were beaten 1-0 by Egypt in their opener at the 1984 Nations Cup - en route to their first title, and Song was present in 2000, when the Lions were held by Ghana in their opener before going onto win their first of two back-to-back continental crowns.

"In 2008 [at the AFCON] we were beaten [4-2] by Egypt in the first match, and that didn't stop us from coming back and finding them again in the final," the former Liverpool defender continued. "That that can serve something for us, we can make the most of that.

"In the next match, we can show a new face [of Cameroon]."

Song also expressed confidence that his side can do the nation proud after a difficult second half to 2017, in which the Indomitable Lions followed up their unlikely AFCON triumph by falling at the first hurdle in the Confederations Cup and failing to qualify for the World Cup.

"The joy hasn't disappeared [from Cameroonian football]," Song insisted. "We're going to battle so that we can still win [the competition].

"My team know they've failed, both individually and collectively, so it's normal that heads are down.

"It's evidence that they realise they could have done better, and it's good that they've got this attitude," he concluded. "We have two matches which are still important, and we've got to put everything in place to show them that we can still qualify for the second round."