A Roger Milla repeat?: World Cup Preview - Cameroon
Bursting on the scene on the back of a historic victory over the then-world champions Argentina, some shoddy tackling and the wiggly hips of someone older than time itself, Cameroon have failed to get any kind of repeat performance from 1990 going. Their 2010 campaign was marred by in-fighting and appalling performances which saw them be the first side eliminated and losing all their games.
Yet, despite all the in-fighting and accusations, The Indomitable Lions are back on the world stage again and have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Brazil, Mexico and Croatia. So let’s see what they have to offer:
Cameroon’s road to the finals was far from smooth. They were very close to being eliminated at the group stage as they made hard work of a group containing Togo, Congo DR and surprise package Libya. Indeed, progression to the play-offs was only secured with a nervy 1-0 win over the Libyans on the final matchday. Faced with a tough tie against Tunisia, The Indomitable Lions held on for a 0-0 draw in Tunisia before a Jean Makoun double helped them to a 4-1 aggregate win and a ticket to Brazil this summer.
German coach Volker Finke has picked a fairly unsurprising 28 man preliminary squad with two standbys as Hamburg striker Jacques Zoua is the biggest name to miss out as he is injured. Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o will captain the side despite a number of disputes he has had with the Cameroon FA and his accusations that teammates refused to pass to him in the first leg of the play-off with Tunisia while Finke has named four goalkeepers in his preliminary squad. Loic Fedjou and Cedric Djeugou of Coton Sport are the only players from Cameroon’s domestic league to make the squad while Zock Bep of Cosmos de Bafia is on the standby list with Barcelona’s Frank Bagnack. Fedjou and Bagnack are the only uncapped players amongst the 30.
Here is the full squad:
Goalkeepers – Loic Fedjou (Coton Sport); Charles Itandje (Konyaspor); Sammy N’Djock (Fethiyespor); Guy N’Dy Assembe (Guingamp)
Defenders – Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR); Henri Bedimo (Lyon); Gaetan Bong (Olympiacos); Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Cedric Djeugou (Coton Sport); Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes); Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille); Danny Nounkeu (Besiktas); Allan Nyom (Granada)
Midfielders – Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor); Raoul Loe (Osasuna); Jean Makoun (Rennes); Joel Matip (Schalke); Stephane Mbia (Sevilla); Landry N’Guemo (Bordeaux); Edgar Salli (Lens); Alexandre Song (Barcelona)
Forwards – Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient); Maxim Choupo-Moting (Mainz); Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea); Mohammadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern); Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy); Fabrice Olinga (Zulte Waregem); Pierre Webo (Fenerbahce)
Standby – Frank Bagnack (Barcelona); Zock Bep (Cosmos de Bafia)
Arguably Cameroon’s greatest ever player, captain Eto’o has been the main man for his country for around a decade. This will be his fourth World Cup finals having previously been to the 1998, 2002 and 2010 finals and he is chasing Roger Milla’s record for goals scored at a finals. His form for Chelsea has been hit and miss this season but he still managed to contribute effectively after a couple of years being one of the highest paid players in the world at Russian side Anzhi. He has been at odds with the Cameroon FA and teammates in the past but there is no denying that The Indomitable Lions’ hopes will be placed firmly on his shoulders.
Despite his lack of game time at Barcelona and criticisms of his form there, Song has undoubted quality and is the key man in Cameroon’s midfield. He provides The Indomitable Lions with cover in front of their back four and a decent amount of creativity from midfield. If Song can reach the form he did in his final season at Arsenal and link up with a hungry Eto’o then Cameroon may just have a chance of progressing well into the competition.
The Marseille centre back is Cameroon’s key man in defence and will need to be at his best to stop some very good strikers from their Group A rivals in Brazil. His performances in France have seen him named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year twice at just 24 years old and he is reportedly attracting interest from Arsenal, Napoli and former club Monaco. Cameroon fans will be hoping for N’Koulou to be at his best and command their back line so they can have a chance at a successful campaign.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Cameroon manager Finke has an undoubtedly very talented and versatile group of players at his disposal so it i
s difficult to really choose a potential starting line-up that he may go with. This looks to be the most likely line-up. Interestingly, only Edgar Salli could truly be classed as a natural winger in the squad but he does not get a start as both Vincent Aboubakar and Benjamin Moukandjo get the nod on the wings. Aboubakar impressed in Ligue 1 with Lorient this season banging in 16 goals with only Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring more than him while Moukandjo impressed during qualifying with crucial goals and his versatility. Both wingers will have freedom to move inside and get close to Eto’o up front and give him options. The midfield pairing of Jean Makoun and Stephane Mbia will give Cameroon energy as both will have to cover lots of ground in central midfield while supporting the attack and helping Song protect the back four. Henri Bedimo gets the nod over Gaetan Bong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto based on his excellent season with Lyon while Allan Nyom is the only natural right back in the squad. N’Koulou and Aurelien Chedjou get the nod at centre back as they are the two best centre backs in the squad while Charles Itandje’s experience gives him the number 1 shirt.
It’s tough to really predict what Cameroon are going to do. The only thing we can predict is that they will be unpredictable. This is arguably the most talented and skilled group of players they’ve assembled for a World Cup but it is tough to say whether they will repeat their 1990 performance or their 2010 performance. If egos and attitudes are kept in check and key men perform to the level they can then Cameroon have a chance of making the knockout rounds and possibly the quarter finals. However, I personally feel that there will be ego clashes and with their history of poor showings at big tournaments in recent years, I am predicting that Cameroon will finish bottom of Group A and head home winless.