Category: African Football


Denis Lavagne, the head coach of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, has named a 22-man squad expected to travel to Guinea Bissau at the end of February for an Africa Cup of Nations 2013 qualifier.

Could Choupo-Moting (L) or Stephane Mbia (R) become Cameroon's media punta or regista?

Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s absence from the list has sparked debate, which is logical given the defender’s performances at Tottenham Hotspur. However, the absence of creativity in the squad requires greater attention.

Creativity here is not the technical ability to dribble, which many of the players possess. It is that science and/or art to link defence to attack with grace. It is the sharpness of mind to make a perfectly weighted killer-pass to the right man and at the right time.

That could be delivered by a variety of players. There is the trequartista – an advanced playmaker who plays centrally between the opposition’s defence and attack, very similar to the engache (Argentine variant) like Juan Riquelme (normally referred to as a “number 10”).  There is the regista – often a deep-lying playmaker like the Italian Andrea Pirlo and more recently Paul Scholes for Manchester United.

Then there is the media-punta – the player who links the midfield organisers and the attack. That is what the likes of Cesc Fabregras, Lionel Messi, and Iniesta do for FC Barcelona and David Silva does for Manchester City.

Creative players give an extra dimension to their teams. They carve openings in the most water-tight defences, they switch the direction of play, dictate the rhythm of a game via their accurate long and short passing.  Who does that for Cameroon?

DEFENDERS

Of the 22 players selected for the Bissau game, at least eleven have consistently played as defenders this season: Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille, France), Stephane Mbia (Marseille, France), Aurelien Chedjou (Lille, France), Jean Armel Kana Biyik (Rennes, France), Henri Bedimo (Montpellier, France), Dany Nounkeu (Gaziantespor, Turkey), Gaetan Bong (Valenciennes, France) and Allan Nyom (Granada, Spain), Joel Matip (Schalk 04, Germany), Georges Mandjeck (Auxerre, France).

A further two: Alexandre Song (Arsenal, England) and Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux, France) have been employed as holding midfielders (a role which Matip, Mbia, and Mandjeck have also held).

Lavagne fielded a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield trio of Nguemo, Song and Enoh Eyong during the LG Cup in Morocco last November. Nguemo and Song looked like the organisers, surging forward to support the attack. They played their hearts out and the team beat Sudan 3-1 and Morocco on penalties after a 1-1 draw.That could possibly be enough versus Bissau.

But, as seen during the World Cup in South Africa where Paul Le Guen used midfield combinations of Makoun, Nguemo, Enoh or Matip – expecting creativity from players who are often defenders or holding midfielders could end up in total fiasco when faced with teams that are solid and compact.

The absence of creative, organising talent  has dogged Cameroon football for many years and certainly goes beyond the game versus Bissau. Lavagne’s predecessors such as Winfried Schaffer, Arthur Jorge, Jules Nyongha, Otto Pfister and Paul Le Guen devised various stratagems to overcome this challenge.

Schaffer designed systems that employed the late Marc Vivien Foe as a regista and on some occasions a hard running box-to-box midfielder.

Arthur Jorge re-shaped the team into a 4-3-3 using former wingers Salomon Olembe and Ngom Kome in central midfield behind the threesome of Samuel Eto’o, Achille Webo and Rudolph Douala. He finished his tenure by using a 4-2-3-1 with Eto’o having a free role “in the hole” behind the lone forward.

Jules Nyongha used a 4-4-2 system with double pivot – usually any two of Stephane Mbia, Landry Nguemo, Jean Makoun and Achille Emana – with each taking turns to attack and defend.

Lavagne must be thinking about this hence talk of switching the FIFA nationality of the attacking midfielder  Willie Overtoom who was born in Cameroon but has represented Holland at youth level. Playing one of Chedjou, Matip, and Mbia as a regista and/or moulding the talented Choupo-Moting as a media-punta or a trequartista are other options to consider.

DEVELOPMENT

However, the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) and/or the national technical directorate need to restructure things from the roots by developing programmes that insist on producing creative young players (in addition to the physical aspects of the game).

As kids growing up in Yaounde, one needed what was called “condi” or “condition” (physical fitness) to be picked in games. Those of us whose physique was not developed to “jam-lock” (basically bulldoze past opponents) were left on the sidelines.

This became even more systematic with the boom of football academies, which are basically incubators of the template for African players needed by Europe-based teams i.e strong, big, tall, quick with enough technique to control the ball.

That mentality has to change.  Simply overpowering opponents with athleticism and counter-attack based football has its limits. P.E. teachers, trainers at soccer academies and club coaches must work on intelligent runs, technique and decision-making for the right pass.

Theophile Abega, Gregoire Mbida, Jean Tokoto, Roger Milla and Louis Paul Mfede could do that and they were also Cameroonians, which means it is possible to have such players.

Meanwhile, here is the squad as published on the Fecafoot website:

1. Nkoulou Nicolas (Olympique de Marseille – France)
2. Aboubakar Vincent (AS Valenciennes – France)
3. Bedimo Henri (Montpellier – France)
4. Bienvenu Henri Ntsama (Fenerbache – France)
5. Bong Gaetan (Valenciennes – France)
6. Chedjou Aurelien (Lille – France)
7. Choupo Moting Eric (Mayence – Allemagne)
8. Feudjou Aurelien (Cotonsport – Cameroun)
9. Kameni Carlos Idriss (Malaga – Espagne
10. Kana Biyik Jean Armel (Rennes – France)
11. Kweuke Leonard (Sparta – Rép. Tchèque)
12. Mandjeck Georges (Auxerre – France)
13. Matip Joel (Schalke 04 – Allemagne )
14. Moukandjo Benjamin (AS Nancy – France)
15. Ndy Assembe Guy (AS Nancy – France)
16. Nguemo Landry (Bordeaux – France)
17. Nounkeu Dany (Gaziantespor – Turquie)
18. Nyom Allan (Grenade – Espagne )
19. Salli Edgar (Monaco – France)
20. Song Alexandre (Arsenal – Angleterre)
21. Zoua Jacques (Bale – Suisse)
22. Mbia Stéphane (Marseille – France)

Cameroon absent but represented at CAN 2012

I have not lost my memory or gone mad. I am aware that Cameroon did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations that kicks-off this Saturday in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. However, there are a handful of players originally from Cameroon who are representing other nations at this tournament.

The bulk of the ex-Cameroonian contingent will be defending the colours of co-hosts Equatorial  Guinea. Five members of their 23-man squad — Narcisse Ekanga (midfield), Thierry Fidjeu (forward),  Douwala Ellong (forward), Raul Juan Maximo Eyama (midfield) and Achille Pensy (goalkeeper) — hail from Cameroon.

Ekanga, who plays his club football for TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had played for Cameroon at U-17 and U-20 levels but with so many central midfielders ahead of him in the pecking order, it is no surprise that he was willing to switch nationalities.

The young goalkeeper Pensy also featured for the U-17 Lions at some point in his young career while Thierry Fidjeu waited in vain for a call to bolster the Indomitable Lions attack before settling for the Nzalang.

There’ll certainly be families jubilating in Douala, Bafoussam and Yaounde should the Nzalang Nacional score a victory over  the Knights of the Mediterranean (formerly known as ‘Greens’) of Libya in the tournament’s opening game.

Nzalang Nacional fans would surely be hoping that these Equato-Cameroonians would be as successful for their team as Lauren Etame Mayer, born in Cameroon to Equato-Guinean parents.  He played for the Indomitable Lions between 1998 and 2002 and won two African Cup of Nations and an Olympic Gold Medal.

AFRICA UNITED

It should be noted, however, that the Equatorial Guinea team also features players originally from Liberia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. There are also a few ex-Brazilians, as well. All are naturalised and should bag home  the $1 million promised by the son of the country’s President, if they can win that opening game!

William Tondji Ngounou will be representing Niger. He is a striker who plays professional football in Sweden. He was born in Cameroon but left the country at the age of 10 to live in Niger with his Cameroonian parents. He has since opted to play for the Mena du Niger.

His national team mates include goalkeeper Dauada Kassaly and midfielders Abdoul-Karim Lancina and Idrissa Saidou who play their club football in Cameroon at Cotonsport Garoua.

Niger  held their pre-tourney training camp in Cameroon. They played a host of friendly games with local clubs and Cameroon’s national selection team of players based at home (or those who have yet to cross the border to play for Equatorial Guinea!).

Two other countries camped in Cameroon before the competition — Botswana and Burkina Faso (Their stay at the Kadji Sports Academy makes them a little Cameroonian, no?).

Burkina Faso could even have fielded another ex-Cameroonian in Herve Zengue who was surprisingly left out of the Stallions squad. Zengue, who is married to a Burkinabe citizen,  played for the Stallions in two qualifying matches against Namibia.

But the southern African nation  claimed was not eligible to represent Burkina Faso and asked for the West Africans to be disqualified. The matter was only recently decided against Namibia by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).  Sadly, by that time, coach Paulo Duarte had decided not to pick Zengue for the tournament.

Gef’s Football Club will provide tactical previews and  analysis of some of the games at this tournament.

British TV pundits praised Benoit Assou-Ekotto for his consistency at Tottenham Hotspur after the Cameroonian contributed to his club’s  2-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Monday.

Assou-Ekotto (with a new hairdo) didn’t look perturbed by news that the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) had summoned him to appear at a disciplinary hearing this week, for failing to join Cameroon’s national team at a camp in Morocco.

Has he ditched playing for Cameroon since February as a Douala-based TV station, Equinoxe TV, said on Monday? That story seems to be making the rounds in the  media.

But the facts of the story don’t match reality. If Assou-Ekotto ditched the Indomitable Lions since February (!!?), was it his clone that I saw playing at leftback  against Senegal on 26 March 2011?

Assou-Ekotto is second from left among players crouching as Cameroon players pose before playing Senegal in Dakar on 26 March 2011. Or was it his clone?

Who knows? The administrative hassles and unprofessional organisation surrounding the Lions could push the player into early retirement like Lauren Etame did in 2002. But it would seem (for now) that it was  Javier Clemente who sidelined the player for months. Here’s a timeline of events:

1. In February, Javier Clemente (then Cameroon head coach) does not pick Assou-Ekotto for a friendly against Macedonia. After some players fail to turn-up, the Spaniard hastily recalls the leftback. Assou-Ekotto does not respond to the call.

2. In March, Clemente does not select the leftback for the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal in Dakar.There is  criticism from the media, the fans, Fecafoot and Ministry of Sports officials. Reports say the coach feels undermined by the player’s refusal to come as a back-up in February. When it appears that Clemente’s preferred leftback Gaetan Bong is injured, the coach is seemingly pressured to recall Assou-Ekotto.

3. The player joins the Lions’ camp in Portugal and eventually plays against Senegal. The media in Senegal describe him as Ca meroon’s man of the match alongside midfielders Landry N’Geumo and Enoh Eyong.

4. In May Assou-Ekotto is picked by the national team trainer for the return-leg game against Senegal but he does not travel to Yaounde. N.B: The player was recovering from an injury sustained days before the game.

5. After the 0-0 draw that basically knocked Cameroon out of the race to qualify for the Africa Cup in 2012, Fecafoot summons Assou-Ekotto to a disciplinary hearing for not appearing for that game. The player does not physically appear for the hearing but reportedly forwards documents explaining he was injured.  The committee issues a warning.  The rule book says injured players must have their injuries confirmed/examined by the national team doctor.

6. In August, ahead of a supposed friendly against Salvador, Clemente does not name Assou-Ekotto in his squad. The match fails to hold, though.

7. In September, Clemente names the squad for the qualifier against Mauritius in Yaounde and a friendly (that did not hold) against Mexico in Paris but Assou-Ekotto is not selected. When pressed on local TV, Francois Omam-Biyick the then deputy head coach says Clemente is still angry about Assou-Ekotto’s failure to appear for the game against Senegal in June. Omam says, the head coach views such behaviour as  indiscipline.

8. In October,  Clemente selects the squad for the final Africa Cup qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo and a friendly against Equatorial Guinea but does not pick Assou-Ekotto.

9. With Clemente and his whole backroom staff sacked after the game against Equatorial Guinea, his successor Denis Lavagne names Assou-Ekotto in a team of 28 players for a series of friendlies in North Africa (versus Sudan, Morocco and Algeria).

10. Assou-Ekotto and several other players fail to make it to the camp in Marrakech in early November. The head coach Lavagne says Assou-Ekotto was injured.

“He (Assou-Ekotto) called that he was injured and that’s a shame because it is the third left-back who is injured,” Lavagne told Camfoot.com

Why then is Assou-Ekotto being dragged to the disciplinary council? Did the coach lie to the journalists? Is Assou-Ekotto charged for not showing up to have the team doctor to confirm his injury as Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou did?

Why have Fecafoot not summoned Somen Tchoyi and Benjamin Moukandjo who were also reportedly injured but did not travel to Marrakesh?

Cameroon have won a friendly football tournament (LG Cup) after they defeated Morocco 4-2 during a penalty shoot-out. Both teams were tied 1-1 after regular play time and had to revert to penalties to have a winner as per the rules of the competition.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) win first trophy but did they get their tactics right? (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

Samuel Eto’o, Henri Bedimo, Dany Noukeu and Enoh Eyong scored their spot kicks for Cameroon while while Morocco missed two of theirs.

Cameroon may have won but Morocco were the better playing side for most of the 90 minutes (plus injury time). Their short passing was precise, with regular one-twos and give-and-go passes that ran the Cameroon midfield ragged.

The Atlas Lions (Morocco) also showed they had the capacity to switch their game, adding more penetration that took Cameroon’s midfield off-guard. This put the centrebacks: Georges Mandjeck (preferred to Joel Matip) and Dany Noukeu on the back-foot

The Indomitable Lions were playing a 4-3-3 where the fullbacks were expected to bomb forward to create width and support the attackers but Morocco played so high-up and at such high tempo that, Bernard Angbwa (right-back) and Henri Bedimo (Left-back) were hemmed-in for most of the encounter.

FIGHTING SPIRIT OVER TECHNIQUE

Two games in two days may have stretched the Indomitable Lions physically. They were forced (by a deluge of injuries) to start with the same that played against Sudan on Friday. However, in a very Cameroonian never-say-die spirit (which had been missing for a while) the team refused to lose.

By the 75th minute when Eto’o scored the curtain-raiser, the Moroccans had obtained 8 corner-kicks to Cameroon’s none. The Moroccans also squandered several goal scoring opportunities, often shooting wide but also denied by the impressive N’Dy Assembe in Cameroon’s goal.

Towards the last 15 minutes of the first-half and during a 15-minute spell before and after Eto’o’s opener Cameroon, however regained the upper-hand. Enoh, Landry N’Geumo and Alex Song fighting for every ball and blocking every space in midfield.

The technique from young Vincent Aboubakar and substitutes Edgar Salli and Jacques Zoua temporarily shifted the balance of power. Were it not for for a really poor final shot from Jean Makoun after a superb combination, Cameroon would have been 2-nil up before the Moroccans equalised.

The Olympiakos player who is not a first choice for Cameroon anymore surely lost the little sympathy fans still have for him.

RETURN OF THE 4-3-3 DEBATE

It is not unusual for Cameroon to win games and tourneys without being the most pleasing side to watch. The Junior Lions typified this Cameroonian quality during the African Youth Championships and the U-20 World Cup tournaments this year.

Nonetheless Cameroon fans have already started complaining about the 4-3-3 formation that coach Denis Lavagne is using. (Does that sound familiar Mr Le Guen?) Many have suggested on online forums that Cameroon hasn’t got the players for that system so the team should return to a  4-4-2  formation that will provide natural width.

I don’t really fancy Cameron playing a system that hinges on wide men. They do not have the players that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Harry Rednapp’s Tottenham have got. Does Cameroon have Nani, Ashley Young, Gareth Bale and Lennon type players?

The country produces mostly players who feature in the centre of the pitch (centre-backs, central midfielders and strikers). Only the list of centre-backs and defensive midfielders could make up a squad:  Nicolas Nkoulou, Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Sebastien Bassong, Yaya Banana, Dany Noukeu, Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, Andre Bikey, Joel Matip, Alex Song, Eyong Enoh, Landry N’geumo, etc.

A DIAMOND COMPROMISE

Indomitable Lions coaches have resorted to playing systems where they can adapt some of the strikers as wide forwards (but not wingers) or playmakers or given creative roles to otherwise defensive midfielders.

This has usually meant playing formations such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 (a.k.a Christmas Tree) and 4-3-3. When they have tried playing 4-4-2, they have been forced to use fullbacks (such as Henri Bedimo) as wingers, drawing the ire of the same fans and media calling for a return to ‘simple ways’.

A compromise between playing 4-4-2 and fitting the kind of players at the disposal of Cameroon’s coaches would be to play a diamond midfield: a holding midfielder, a playmaker behind two strikers and 2 shufflers running the channels in midfield (playing narrow) but not wingers.

Although, I’d advise the managers to do things as they deem right for the team, they might want to try a diamond midfield against a relatively weaker opponent. Isn’t it one of  Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s (deputy head coach) favourite formations?

However, there’d be little width except the fullbacks join in (requiring a lot of defensive and attacking duties for them). The game would be overly dependent on the playmaker being able to click creatively but also supporting the defence.

Bienvenu Ntsama, the  forward who currently plays for Turkish side Fernerbahce, is set to start for Cameroon this Sunday when they clash with hosts Morocco at the 2011 LG Cup, Cameroon media correspondents say.

The striker who scored 16 goals last season for Swiss club Young Boys Bernes is quick and sharp in-front of goal. He can play as a second striker dropping deep to support play but could also function in wide attacking roles.

Ntsama is expected to be part of a front-three that includes Vincent Aboubakar, a former Cotonsport forward (now playing for Valencienne in France) and Indomitable Lions captain Samuel Eto’o.

Ntsama was first called to camp in an international friendly against Poland in 2010. He was part of the squad that played against Mauritius in September last year but was not recalled until September this year. This may be a chance for him to stake a claim for a place in the squad.

He will be replacing Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting who picked up a knock on the ankle during Cameroon’s 3-1 defeat of Sudan at the start of the LG Cup on Friday. Reports say Choupo-Moting has been released by Cameroon’s coaching staff to enable him return to his German club, Mainz, for proper treatment and rest.

Choupo-Moting’s situation only adds to the injury woes that have hit Cameroon as they seek to re-build their team through a series of friendlies in North Africa. Strikers Leonard Kweuke, Benjamin Moukandjo and Somen Tchoyi; as well as defenders Nicolas Nkoulou, Aurelien Chedjou, Gaetan Bong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto had earlier pulled-out of the squad due to injury.

Cameroon players on reserve bench, Dakar 26 March 2011

From left to right: N'Dy Assembe, Vincent Aboubakar , Georges Mandjeck, Choupo-Moting, Abouna Ndzana and Tchoyi on the reserve bench in Dakar against Senegal. A 26 March 2011 photo by GEF.

This forced head coach Denis Lavagne to field two central midfielders, Joel Matip and Georges Mandjeck, as centrebacks in the game against Sudan. While Matip came out relatively unscathe, Mandjeck had a rough time and even conceded a penalty that led to the Sudanese goal.

The Rennes midfielder is now expected to start Sunday’s game on the bench while Dany Noukeu, a regular centre-back will partner Matip at the heart of Cameroon’s defence.

Allan Nyom, the Granada FC rightback, who was a make-shift left fullback on Friday will start on the bench as Henri Bedimo (a regular leftback) has shaken off an injury  is fit to start against the Atlas Lions.

Two fullbacks from Cameroon’s national league – Abouna Ndzana and Oyongo Bitolo – have now joined the camp and may be given a run at some point. They were summoned when the coaches realised that all of Cameroon’s main left fullbacks were injured.

Goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni, who got injured barely 20 minutes into the game against Sudan, has yet to recover which means Guy Roland N’Dy Assembe of French side Nancy will start against Morocco.

The coaches have shown confidence in the midfield trio of Enoh Eyong, Landry N’Geumo and Alexandre Song that started against Sudan. Hopefully, they would maintain a consistent level of passing and pressure on opponents to regain possession throughout the game. There was a dip in their performance during the second half of the encounter against Sudan.

Here’s the expected starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation: Assembe; Angbwa (RB) – Matip (CB) – Noukeu (CB) – Bedimo (LB); N’Geumo (CM) – Enoh (CM) – Song (CM); Aboubakar (FW) – Eto’o (ST) – Ntsama (FW).

Goals from Enoh Eyong Tarkang, Benoit Angbwa and Samuel Eto’o helped Cameroon to a 3-1 defeat of Sudan at the start of the LG Cup in Morocco.

The Indomitable Lions were without six of their regular defenders and had to make do with a right fullback (Allan Nyom) playing on the left and two central midfielders (Joel Matip and Georges Mandjeck) playing as centre-backs.

A screen shot of Eto'o scoring Cameroon's 3rd goal against Sudan on 11 Nov 2011 in Marrakech

The weakness of this make-shift back four was evident in Mandjeck’s poor foul in the 18-yard box that led to Sudan’s goal from the penalty spot.

TACTICS

Cameroon’s head coach started with a 4-3-3 formation and the team played quick, brisk football in the opening stages of the game. The two fullbacks surged forward to support the attack and this was seen in Benoit Angbwa’s goal (Cameroon’s second) at the 35th minute of play.

The Anzhi defender was so high up the pitch that, he is the one who passed the ball to Eric Maxim  Choupo-Moting at the edge of the penalty area. The striker’s shot was  parried away by the Sudanese goalkeeper but Angbwa had followed the action and scored from the rebound.

However, in the latter stages of the first half and most of the second-half, Cameroon’s pressing was not consistent enough especially from midfield. The passing also dipped and became a bit sloppy.

The Sudanese were very quick and operated using rapid counter-attacks when Cameroon lost the ball in their half. Their attacking midfielders displayed cohesion and some purposeful interplay particularly in the second half.

PLAYERS

The Nancy goalkeeper Roland N’dy Assembe showed he is a great shot-stopper when he replaced Idris Kameni. However, he needs to improve his distribution which these days is essential for goalkeepers. He often used long balls which basically returned the ball to the Sudanese.

Joel Matip proved he was an extremely talented player, probably one of the best on the night. He passed well, distributed the ball masterfully, intercepted effectively and read the game properly. Those qualities would have been useful in Cameroon’s midfield, especially in the second half. Hopefully, when the normal centre-backs return after this series of friendlies the coaches would attempt to play Matip as a holding midfielder.

Once again Choupo-Moting was oozing with class and skill. The Mainz forward makes football look so easy with exquisite touch and passing. He has clearly established himself in Cameroon’s starting team. Two goals were scored from rebounds following shots at goal by Choupo-Moting.

He was replaced by Vincent Aboubakar (Valencienne) who also displayed promise and showed signs that he is maturing tactically. Six months ago he would have delayed with the pass to Eto’o that led to Cameroon’s third. Now, the former Cotonsport attacker has added vision and intelligence to his natural talent.

Sali Edgar, another ex-Cotonsport player, has always had vision which he displayed during the African Youth Championships in South Africa this year. He was at the start of the move that led to Eto’o’s goal but also provided much needed width in the second half when Cameroon’s game looked cluttered.

On the other hand, Jacques Zoua (yet another former Cotonsport player)  seemed to over-burdened by his first senior cap for Cameroon. Maybe he would have had a better debut had his thunderous header at the 31s minute not crashed on the cross-bar. It was the ping-pong following that effort which led to Enoh’s curtain-raiser. He could improve his output once he is more confident.

Georges Mandjeck also had problems which may be linked to his unusual role as a centre-back. He had drops in concentration and his positional sense has to improve. It would be nice to see him in his natural midfield position, though.

Allan Nyom  seems to be a very attack minded fullback making regular forward runs. Yet, one could notice he was uncomfortable playing as a left fullback. Hopefully, he would get a chance to prove his worth at right-back in the coming games.

Alex Song impressed going forward (as has been the case since his return); Samuel Eto’o was generally good, as an old hand should be. However, Jean Makoun was below standard and should not be recalled.

Denis Lavagne has named Jacques Zoua of Swiss club FC Basel among the players to start for Cameroon against Sudan at the LG Cup in Morocco. It is the youngster’s first senior international cap.

Zoua, who played for Cotonsport under the stewardship of Lavagne, will be part of a three-man forward line that includes team captain Samuel Eto’o and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.

The team is expected to start in a 4-3-3 formation with Enoh Eyong Tarkang (Ajax Amsterdam), Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux) and Alexandre Song (Arsenal) playing in midfield. Enow is expected to play as the holding midfielder (a la Busquets for FC Barcelona) while N’guemo and Song would push further forward.

The back-four of Benoit Angbwa (Anzhi), Joel Matip (Shalke 04), Georges Mandjeck (Rennes) and Allan Nyom (Granada FC)  will be playing together for the first time and would need a lot of cover from the more experienced midfielders and goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni.

The full line-up then: Kameni; Angbwa (RB), Matip (CB), Mandjeck (CB), Nyom (LB); Nguemo (M); Enoh (M); Song (M); Zoua (FW), Eto’o (ST); Choupo-Moting (FW).

Apart from the goalkeeper, it is the team Gef’s Football Club predicted last evening. It would seem Lavagne has opted for continuity in terms of the formation used by Javier Clemente in his latter days.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will face Guinea Bissau in the first phase of qualifiers of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The home and away knock-out games will be played in January 2012 at the same time as the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

These will be the first competitive games for Cameroon’s newly appointed technical staff headed by Frenchman Denis Lavagne.

supporters getting ready

Cameroon fans have to get set for the upcoming games

The Nations Cup is being switched from even to odd years so there is only one year between the next two events.

As a result the qualifiers for the 2013 competition have been divided into three parts:

  • A first preliminary stage involving the four  lowest ranked teams that are not qualified for the Africa Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. As such  Seychelles will play against Swaziland while Sao Tome take on Lesotho.
  • The winners of these games plus 26 other countries that have not qualified qualified for the 2012 edition of the Africa cup will face each other in head-to-head (home and away) knock out games (see pairings below).
  • The winners of these games will then be paired against teams that will participate in the 2012 Africa Cup. These games will also be home and away, head-to-head fixtures.
  • The fifteen teams that emerge from this process will join hosts South Africa in the 2013 tournament.

Here is the complete fixture list as drawn by the Confederation of African Football:

Preliminary round one:

Seychelles v Swaziland

Sao Tome v Lesotho

Preliminary round two:

Ethiopia v Benin

Rwanda v Nigeria

Congo Brazzaville v Uganda

Burundi v Zimbabwe

Algeria v The Gambia

Kenya v Togo

Sao Tome/Lesotho v Sierra Leone

Guinea Bissau v Cameroon

Chad v Malawi

Seychelles/Swaziland v DR Congo

Tanzania v Mozambique

Central African Republic v Egypt

Madagascar v Cape Verde

Liberia v Namibia

Javier Clemente: Was this his last game in-charge of Cameroon?

Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea played a 1-1 draw in an international friendly on Tuesday in Malabo. The Lions scored the curtain raiser through striker Leonard (Leonie) Kweuke before their hosts equalised. .

Cameroon coach Javier Clemente fielded a second-string team for this encounter apart from Alexandre Song who was duly withdrawn by the second-half to prevent him picking-up an injury.

Cameroon’s passing, especially in that second-half, was really woeful. Eric Djemba Djemba showed again that he doesn’t deserve to be recalled to the team, often losing possession as was the case against Mauritius and Congo (Kinshasa).

Abouna Ndzana, the young Astres Douala full-back who deputised at right-back, showed enthusiasm surging forward, but he was often caught out of position. His short-passing was unimpressive and he kept kicking the ball long to the forwards who were not the tallest in the world once Kweuke had been substituted.

The players generally looked tired and sluggish. This was not helped by the rugged play by the hosts whose tackles that gave a stop-start tempo to the game. It was unpleasing to watch.

A [particularly bad challenge against Kweuke forced the Cameroon coaches to replace him with Benjamin Moukandjo Bille just before half-time. His teammates got enraged when the referee didn’t whistle for a foul or warn the Equato-Guinean player.

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-host showed determination and power which led to their equaliser. But they hardly ever got near to Jules Goda’s goal area on his 1st start for Cameroon.

Edgar Sali, who only five months ago was still playing for the U-20s, gave a good account of himself. However, his set-pieces were poorly taken whereas that is one of his strengths.

Will this be Clemente’s last game as head coach of the Indomitable Lions? The rumour mill has been grinding since Cameroon failed to beat Senegal in June.

The Spaniard however says he is there to re-build the squad and is in for the long-term with Cameroon regardless of the team’s failure to qualify for next year’s AfCon tournament.

The re-building process continues next month when Cameroon plays two international friendlies against Ivory Coast and Algeria. Will the Spaniard be in-charge then?

Cameroon knew they were not going to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) even if they defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All they wanted was a win to end the qualifiers with pride; which they did by beating the DRC 3-2 in Kinshasa on Friday.

Very little noise was made before the game. Even Paul Biya who so often presents the team as an example for the country’s youth to emulate, didn’t include them in his campaign speeches in the run up to Sunday’s Presidential Election.

Anyway, that was when the Lions were truly Indomitable and won most of the times. In reality,  though, it is now that the Indomitable Lions are really epitomising Cameroon: a country with great potential, talented human resources (at home and abroad) but lacking leadership and infested by bad governance. (We’ll come to that further down this post).

Return to 4-3-3

Cameroon were missing a flurry of players including  Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Amgwa, Joel Matip  who are out injured. As a result coach Javier Clemente played with a defence line which had never played together .

Enoh Eyong who is normally a midfielder had to start at right-back, Sebastien Bassong partnered with Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence for the first time since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October  last year in Garoua; and Gaetan Bong held his role at leftback as was the case in the past two games.

Clemente opted for a midfield trio in which Eric Djemba was the holding midfielder infront of the back four; while Landry Ngeumo and Alex Song worked the channels. The latter was so advanced in the first half that he had a hand in Eto’o’s equaliser (1-1) and hit the cross-bar after a beautiful give-and-go with Eto’o a few moments later.

But the team looked disjointed on several occasions and Djemba was a weak link as in his defensive role. He was heavy and got beaten for pace most times the  Congolese started a fast counter-attack.

This exposed the centre-backs and added pressure on Enoh who was playing for the very first time at right-back. Bong was just on an off day and many fans on internet forums questioned why the coach had not called Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

All the Cameroonian players seemed to have problems with the artificial turf used for the game but this alone could not explain the number of poor passes in the first half and the misses by the attackers.

Mystery-man Adongcho

Mbuta Andongcho scores for Cameroon but has no club?

Moukandjo Bile who was playing wide on the right was particularly wasteful with the opportunities he had. Eto’o and Eric Choupo-Moting often interchanged roles as central striker and wide left forward and on several ocassions they sliced the Congolese but made a bad final pass.

It was only after Clemente substituted Djemba (replaced by Mbuta Adongcho) and switched formation to a flexible 4-2-1-3  (4-2-3-1) in the second half that cam,eroon seemed to control the game. By then DRC were leading 2-1 and had even managed to miss a penalty. The game was as tight as the scoreline.

Cameroon finally equalised through Adongcho who poked in a ball headed down by Nkoulou. Adongcho was again involved in the winning goal holding the the ball long enough to see that Choupo-Moting (who had started the move) got into a scoring position before passing the ball.

Adongcho is quite a mystery. I don’t know where he actually plays his football. Cameroon media say he is clubless and is struggling to get a move to Rumania. However, he seems to score every time he is given his chance to play.

The win must have been a relief for the players but they would certainly have many regrets. With the array of talent in the squad, it’s a shame that they are not going to be at the AFCON.

Bad Governance

This is down to bad management and leadership from sports officials in Cameroon and some of the senior players in the squad.

Cameroon’s sports authorities decided to recruit as head-coach, a Spaniard who stays in Spain and only flies-in when there is a game at hand. He seemingly has a pre-planned list of players that he picks regardless of whether they are in forme or even playing football at all.

These same authorities failed to deal with the inter-personal clashes that are said to have ruined the teams World Cup. They made an unofficial ban on some players, particularly Alex Song, only to realise when Cameroon was already limping, that these players were vital.

Bickering between Eto’o and Song poisoned the dressing room and left the team appearing on soap opera columns rather than on sports pages.

But how could fans expect a team operating in a dysfunctional set-up fraught with bad-governance  to perform well.

Hey! This is Cameroon – a country where a dead man was appointed as a as the head of a Division and the ruling party could appoint a dead man into its central committee. Why should a coach not name players who have no clubs in the national team?

Cameroon players have a spirit that pushes them to want to survive. It is the same spirit that is in the hawkers on the streets of Yaounde, the benskineurs (motorbike taxi riders) in Douala, Limbe and Bamenda and the high school graduate selling telephone top-up cards in Buea.

But there comes a time when even the fighting spirit can’t get you anywhere when there is dis-organisation and the absence of visionary leadership.

It happened in the post-1990 World Cup era and Cameroon failed to qualify for the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. It has happened again and they are out of the 2012 edition. But, shall they  ever learn?

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