Category: Indomitable Lions of Cameroon


Eric Djemba Djemba has joined Scottish Premier League side St. Mirren until the end of the season, hoping that regular football may improve his chances for a spot in Cameroon’s World Cup squad, the club announced on its website on Wednesday.

“He is a top drawer player who does a power of work in the defensive midfield area,” said St Mirren manager Danny Lennon. “He wants regular football to ensure he goes to the World Cup with Cameroon this summer and we are happy to give him that platform,” Lennon told the club’s website.

The 32-year-old midfielder has not been part of the Indomitable Lions set up for about two years but seemingly trusts in his capacity to bounce back. He will face stiff competition for the defensive midfield role where Cameroon has more than a dozen regular (and younger) contenders including Schalke’s Joel Matip, FC Barcelona’s Alex Song, among others.

A decade ago, Djemba Djemba was one of Cameroon’s promising talents rising from Kadji Sports Academy near Douala to FC Nantes in France where he was recruited by Manchester United in 2003. He was seen at the time as a potential replacement for then United captain Roy Keane but the Cameroonian failed to live up to expectation, making only 13 league starts in 35 appearances for Manchester United.

“I was not being [selected] in many games and it was difficult,” Djemba-Djemba said in a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper. “Roy Keane came back from injury, I wanted to play games and I had a talk with the gaffer (Alex Ferguson). He said: ‘No problem. If you have [another] team and you want to continue to play, that’s not a problem.’”

He opted for a transfer to Aston Villa as he opportunities for a starting place in the team dwindled. This was followed by a downward spiral that took him to Burnley, then to Qatar SC before a resurgence at Danish side Odense.

Before joining St. Mirren the one-time captain of Cameroon’s under-23 national team was at Partizan Belgrade. The Serbian club released him after he made just14 appearances since he joined last summer.

Djemba Djemba’s bid to convince Volker Finke, Cameroon’s German born trainer, may start if he plays for St. Mirren in Sunday’s Scottish Cup match against Dundee United.

St. Mirren Football Club which is ninth (9th) in the Scottish Premier League table, is based in Paisley, Renfrewshire, and was founded in 1877.

Cameroon’s Sebastien Bassong says despite perennial off-the-field issues, the Indomitable Lions hope to perform well, especially with Samuel Eto’o in the mix, at the soccer World Cup that kicks-off next June in Brazil.

The centre-back who captains Norwich in the English Premier League told a British TV network that his national team captain Eto’o, often accused of being divisive, must be part of the World Cup squad and will come good.

“He’s got to go to the World Cup. We will find a way to co-habit. Even if some people don’t like the fact that he is going to be there, we all want the same thing: Cameroon to do well,” Bassong is quoted as saying in excerpts of the TV interview published in The Guardian newspaper.

“Samuel is a huge player for us, a huge character in the country – the most famous person after the president. Our pressure compared to him is nothing. But he’s born to handle that,” the 27-year-old Bassong said.

Bassong partnered Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence for Cameroon at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but has since fallen behind in the pecking order due to a combination of injuries and form issues. With his regular starts and strong displays for Norwich, many observers expect him to return to the Lions’ den to fight for place in the World Cup squad.

That would be another opportunity to team up with his friend and colleague Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Both men played for Tottenham Hotspur (and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon) before the quest for regular football led Bassong to Norwich while Assou-Ekotto is on loan at Queen’s Park Rangers in the English second tier league.

Sebastien Bassong (R) and his pal Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) while on national team duty with Cameroon

Sebastien Bassong (R) and his pal Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) while on national team duty with Cameroon

Bassong shares hilarious anecdotes about Assou-Ekotto who is famous for saying publicly that he is playing football because it’s a money-making job.

“For him, it’s a job. I played with Benni at Spurs and in the national team. He used to not even know who we were playing against. Sometimes he would say about opponents or team-mates in the national team when the squad was changing, ‘Bass, who’s that?’, ” Bassong said.

“The best one I remember about Benni was when we were having the team photo at Tottenham and he arrived late….Rafael van der Vaart had just signed and I was next to him. So Benni was shaking hands and when he got to Rafa, he shook his hand, stood still and looked at him. And then he asked me in French: ‘Who’s that?’ I said: ‘It’s Van der Vaart.’

“Benni said: ‘OK, nice to meet you.’ Harry [Redknapp, the Spurs manager] had to explain. He told Rafa: ‘Don’t worry, he doesn’t know who you are, he doesn’t know anything about football, but he’s a great player.’”

Assou-Ekotto’s tells it as he sees it and doesn’t fakes things as is common in football circles which surely explains why the deeply religious Bassong rates him as a friend.

“I believe in God and read the Bible everyday,” Bassong says. “There are some days when your faith goes down a little bit, for whatever reason, but it’s always there. It’s a big part of my life. Football is a different world. The way I see football … there is loads of fake. You’re not living in the real life. For me, the real life will start when I stop playing football.”


Read the full story in The Guardian  here. The excerpts are based on an interview with BT Sport which is the UK’s newest sports TV service, with three channels showing a host of sport, including live top tier action from the Barclays Premier League, with 38 exclusively live matches.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have been drawn against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the last round of African qualifiers to next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. It is not the first time that these two teams face each other in a direct knock-out challenge for a World Cup ticket. It was already the case in 1989 when Cameroon defeated Tunisia to clinch one of the (then) two tickets to represent Africa at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

The video is a 56-seconds clip of highlights of the second-leg game played  in Tunisia which Cameroon won 1-0. The goal was scored at the 12th minute of play by Francois Omam Biyick – who went on to score Cameroon’s winning goal in the opening game of Italia 1990 against Diego Maradona’s Argentina.

The Indomitable Lions had defeated the Carthage Eagles 2-0 in the first-leg game in Yaoundé with goals from (the late) Louis Paul M’Fede and Emmanuel Kunde.

Can the present pride of Lions repeat such a performance?

The players who started for Cameroon in-front of 45,000 spectators at the El Menzah stadium in Tunis on 19 November 1989 in Tunis were:

Joseph Antoine Bell (GK); Bertin Ebwelle (LB), Stephen Tataw (RB), Emmanuel Kunde (CB), Jean-Claude Pagal (CB); Andre Kana Biyick (CM), Mbouh Mbouh Emile (CM), Louis Paul M’Fede (LW), Ernest Ebongue (RW); Eugene Ekeke (FW), Francois Omam Biyick (FW). 

The starting line-up for the Indomitable Lions on 8th October 1989 at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaoundé  were:  

Joseph Antoine Bell (GK); Bertin Ebwelle (LB), Stephen Tataw (RB), Emmanuel Kunde (CB), Jules Denis Onana (CB); Andre Kana Biyick (CM), Thomas Libih (CM), Louis Paul M’Fede (LW), Ernest Ebongue (RW); Bonaventure Djonkep (FW), Francois Omam Biyick (FW). 

Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play their first competitive fixture under new manager, Volker Finke, on Sunday against the Sparrow-hawks of Togo. The German-born trainer has been working with his squad in Yaoundé since they returned from Kiev where they played a goalless tie with hosts Ukraine in an international friendly on 2 June.

Here are three (3) aspects of Finke’s football philosophy that we should be watching out for come Sunday afternoon:

  1. A High Pressing Game

Volker Finke is known in Germany as one of the leading lights of the high pressing game which he instigated and sustained during his 16-year tenure at SC Frieburg. A lot of Germany’s current crop of coaches including Jurgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund, Joachim Löw (the German national team coach) and Ralf Rangnick are recognised as following in Finke’s footsteps.

British football writer Jonathan Wilson wrote recently in the Guardian about Finke’s approach:

At Freiburg, Finke became noted as a pioneer of pressing in Germany – which was oddly late to adopt the practice – and achieved notable success with a small budget as a result. Whether he will have the time to instil a similar style of play at Cameroon is doubtful, appealing though the idea of them becoming the Chile of Africa may be, but he will at least be tactically imaginative.

Finke is so keen about high pressing, quick passing and movement that he has specific  training drills as he described here during his time as coach at Urawa Diamonds in Japan:

That was training for players to learn how to approach various types of situation during the game. For example, when players lose their ball, types of approaches the team should take and in what timing they should start giving pressure change depending on where they lose their ball such as center or side. As such, I decided that the team lost their ball where the player whose name I called was standing. Players then had to figure out how they give pressure as a team and who takes the initial approach. It was training taking real match situations into consideration. It might have seemed as a new type of training. By having more and more of these kinds of training sessions, I believe that the team will be able to improve to perfection level….

He continued:

…I can say that pressing does not necessary start from a player who is closest to the ball. This is because there are many different types of situations during matches. In some cases, no pressing is done or other players start the pressing. Being able to make the right kind of move at the right timing regardless whether there is a ball or not is part of the talent. I consider this as one of the exceptional abilities. Even when players train themselves seriously for several months with a very professional attitude, some may not be able to get it completely right. Making the right decision according to the given situation and play for the team is one of the important elements as well as a talent. When a player is truly gifted, he often has an excellent strategic mind as well.

2. Fluid Tactical Options

I didn’t watch the Cameroon’s game against Ukraine last week and had to rely on match reports from on-line Cameronian media. Each one seems to have seen their own formation. There were those who thought Finke played a 4-3-3 while others said the team played a 4-2-3-1 formation.  We may come to expect more of that from the Lions Den. Rather than sticking to a single plan Finke works by adjusting the formation to the demands of the game and opposition he faces.  The key aspect is to build carefully and break with speed and accuracy.

Finke once said:

It’s boring to switch flanks and knock the ball from one wing to the other. We build through the middle, where there is little space. You play three or four short passes to lure the defense into what they think is the danger zone. And then you suddenly open up the game over the flanks – that’s what is really dangerous.

The key for him is playing beautiful attacking football as reported in this post in The Hard Tackle:

Finke helped a lowly regarded team with limited quality resources to qualify for Bundesliga’s top tier and managed them to finish third in the next season with his version of concept football – a thoroughly drilled, collective movement at a high tempo. During that time Freiburg were known as Breisgau Brazilians for their wonderfully pleasing and technically superior style of football that saw them pass the ball both artfully and precisely.

3. Focus on the Team and not Individuals:

Cameroon football forums are full of discussions about the impact the  absence of the Lions’ captain and talisman Samuel Eto’o may have on the team. The level of anxiety seems to have shot-up following the draw against Ukraine in which the young strikers reportedly failed to impress. Finke believes in team work rather than individuals. It is up to those who would be given the chance to play in the absence of Eto’o to give it their best shot as a team for Cameroon. Here’s a popular quote from Finke that could help calm the nerves of some fans:

“I don’t want team leaders. That’s a line of thinking that buries other players’ strengths. Our playing system does not depend on the individual.”

Will Finke’s ideals work with Cameroon – a team so used to playing deep and soaking up pressure to strike via counter-attacks? Does he have the players to match his philosophy and work ethic?  It would be too much to expect magic on Sunday but hopefully we could have a glimpse of the new Cameroon.

Cameroon’s national soccer team the Indomitable Lions must defeat the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde by at least three clear goals on Sunday to obtain a ticket to  South Africa for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Cape Verde beat Cameroon  2-0 last month in the first-leg encounter.

The thought of missing a second AFCON in a row has led to desperate moves from the government, football officials and fans.  Authorities sacked the French-born coach who was in-charge of the team and installed Jean Paul Akono barely days after the defeat. Akono then pushed authorities to convince the team captain Samuel Eto’o to return to the squad after he suspended his international career last month.

He  picked several players who featured during his spells as head coach of the U-23 (Olympic) Lions and the senior Indomitable Lions between 2000 and 2004.  Achille Webo, Modeste Mbami, Pierre Wome, Jean Makoun, Angbwa Ossomeyong have not been in the den for a while but the Olympic Gold Medal winning coach thinks their experience will be a deciding factor in the weekend’s duel. The media thinks it is a sign of desperation.

Who knows? The coach may be banking on the views of Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century British Prime Minister, novelist and bon viveur who once said that “desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.”  Cameroon’s fortunes depend on Akono’s tactical genius.

Akono favours playing a high defensive line with  attackers and midfielders who harry and press opponents throughout the game. Can his “experienced players”  have the energy and fitness levels required for this?

According to reporters who have observed the team train all week, particularly the practice match against local (division 3) side  on Wednesday, the coach is plotting a flat 4-4-2 formation. He has regularly started with Idris Kameni as goalkeeper,  Angbwa as rightback and Wome as leftback; a very young central defence partnership of Guy Armel Kana Biyick and Nicolas Nkoulou. He has played with Alex Song, Jean Makoun, Idrissou and Mevoungou in midfield while Achille Emana or Eto’o and Webo have played as strikers.

MIDFIELD DIAMOND

On the overall scheme of things, Akono seems to be respecting his promise to set-up an attack-minded team (they beat the local side 5-1).  But a few things seem unclear, though. Is he playing an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with a double-pivot (of Makoun and Song) in central midfield and traditional wingers? Who are the wingers? Idrissou can put a shift on the left but his crossing is awful (he’s a striker) while  Mevoungou and Emana don’t enjoy playing on the flanks. How he tackles the issue would determine the attacking flow of the game.

If Cameroon must play a 4-4-2 formation,  I believe they are more suited to operate with a ‘diamond’  midfield due to the lack of true wingers among the current crop of players. They have hardworking midfielders to intercept (break-down) moves by opponents and shuttle from box-to-box. They also have relatively good  fullbacks who can  overlap to provide width rather than forcing reluctant central midfielders and  strikers into becoming the wingers.

For instance, they could start with:  Kameni (gk) – Allan Nyom or Angbwa (RB) and Wome (LB); Kana-Biyick (CB) Nkoulou (CB) in defence.  A midfield diamond with  either Alex Song or Joel Matip sat deep in space in-front of the back-four, Makoun a little ahead  to the left, Mevoungou or higher up on the right and Overtoom  at the tip of the diamond, behind Eto’o  or Achille Emana and Webo.

However they choose to play (and I won’t be surprised to see them playing a 3-5-2 formation with Kana, Nkoulou, Chedjou or Matip at the back) it won’t be a ride in the park. Cape Verde have been training as well and are so good that they outplayed Cameroon in Praia.

Cameroon have been down this road before. Eight veteran Lions visited the current pride to share their experience of backs-to-the-wall games. Roger Milla (CAF African Player of the 20th Century), Joseph Antoine Bell (1984 & 1988 AFCON winner), Theophile Abega (1984 AFCON winning captain), Bonaventure Njonkep (1984 AFCON winner) and Victor Ndi Akem, Eugene Ekeke and Thomas Libih (1990 World Cup quarter-finalists) sought to pass on the indomitable spirit of the past.

But what will be the story by 6p.m. on Sunday? Will fans be celebrating as wildly as they did on 10th October 1993 after Cameroon defeated Zimbabwe 3-1 to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.?  Will Eto’o and Webo be weeping inconsolably on the turf of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium as they did after the  Lions drew 1-1 with Egypt on 8th October 2005 and failed to reach the 2006  World Cup in Germany?

It’s been a while since I posted on the blog. Travel, work and more are to blame. Many things things have happened since the last post. Off the top of my head, here are a few of the occurrences:

The Lionesses were at the Olympics where they suffered defeat after defeat. The reserve or home based Lions were in India for the Nehru Cup and finished second in a tournament they were expected to win. Samuel Eto’o declined to play forthe Lions who went on to lose 2-0 to Cape Verde.

Denis Lavagne got the boot and Jean Paul Akono returned as head coach about 10 years after he ’twas hounded out of the same job by unhappy Cameroonians.

The government has ordered or gone on its knees (depending on how you perceive things) to request Eto’o’s return to the Lions’ den. Eto’o met the PM, the new (old) coach Akono, the team manager (former captain/Eto’o’s rival/ Eto’o’s friend of the 1984 gang) Rigoberto’s Song and the Minister of Sport Adoum Garoua.

Union sportif Douala crowned champions of Cameroon in TV pundit Frank Happi’s first season in-charge as chairman of the veteran club!

And Jean Paul Akono decides o name several veterans in his 26-man squad ahead of the home game against Cape Verde….
Woof!!!! So much has happened then… Well, I’m back with a few niceties. I’ll be using tools like audio blogs, and storify to make quick posts and curate stuff for you in case I’m held up by work and can’t post a full write-up.

Start by taking a look at the Storify piece on reactions on twitter after Akono’s released his list. http://storify.com/gefsoutlook/akono-s-lions-of-cameroon
Merci.

Cameroon defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 in Yaounde to sneak into the final round of qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa.

The Indomitable Lions were held on their own turf for 81 minutes by a resilient Guinea Bissau side until forward Benjamin Moukandjo beat goalkeeper Jonas Mendes following a cross from the left flank by substitute Yannick Ndjeng.

“They played with eight players in the defence and it was difficult for us,” said Martin Ndtoungou Mpile, Cameroon’s deputy head coach. “But at the end we won,” Ndtoungou added in a post-match interview with Cameroon’s State-run TV (CRTV).

While the coaches and the players were visibly satisfied with the result,  pundits on TV and Cameroonians reacting on internet forums have expressed disgust at the quality of play served by the Lions. The team had the ball possession and made endless passes in midfield and outside the Guinea Bissau penalty area but lacked penetration.

The final ball was poor and the finishing from some of the players was near abysmal. The few fans who had turned up to watch the Lions at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium were so disgusted with some of the misses that they spent their time chanting the name of “Eto’o,” the suspended skipper of the national team.

Head coach Denis Lavagne would surely point to the fact that Cameroon played higher up the field than in any other game under his tenure but critics would argue that this was against a weak Bissau team that had come to defend and left the ball to the Lions (who visibly didn’t know what to do with it).

Pundits remarked that the team still couldn’t find a working link between midfield and attack with Alexandre Song, who had to play that role, missing in action for much of the game. Some of his best through balls were made when he was playing from a deeper position than that of the anchor behind the strikers.

Henri Bedimo, the left-back made a number pf overlapping runs and some crosses in what seemed the only other means of outwitting the Bissau side. Georges Mandjeck, the midfielder who plays as right full-back under Lavagne, made a few forward runs as well but nothing really happened until the coach substituted the big centre-forward, Leonard Kweuke.

Ndjeng, who replaced Kweuke, was more mobile – dropping deep and making runs across the area – to drag the opposing defenders out of position. He was assisted in this by Vincent Aboubakar who (controversially) replaced Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, the team’s current goal-poacher. Aboubakar dribbled and took the game into the opposing area but his finishing was sub-standard mainly due to his over-exuberance.

There was relief for the Lions when Ndjeng centred from the left for Moukandjo to score after what seemed on television like the ball had touched the Nancy striker’s hand.

Cameroon go through on a 2-0 aggregate since they had also defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 in the away leg game played in Bissau last February.

It was Lavagne’s third 1-0 victory in four competitive outings as Cameroon coach. He has only lost one game (2-1 to Libya) since taking over in October/November 2011. But the near empty stands were very telling about what Cameroonian fans think of their national squad these days.

NB: Cameroon’s starting line-up [playing 4-3-3].

GK: Idriss Kameni

RB: Georges Mandjeck; LB: Henri Bedimo; CB: Nicolas Nkoulou (capt.) and Aurelien Chedjou

Midfielders: Stephane Mbia, Alex Song, Landry Ngeumo

RF: Choupo-Moting; CF: Leonard Kweuke; LF: Benjamin Moukandjo

Substitutions:

-Yannick Ndjeng in for Kweuke

-Vincent Aboubakar in for Choupo

-William Overtoom in for Moukandjo.

CORRECTED: Paragraph 12 to indicate that the player supposed to mark the Libyan who scored was Yannick Ndjeng and not Mbuta Andongcho.  And Paragraph 14 to take off a similar reference to Andongcho.

Libya’s Ahmed Osman headed in a corner at the very last minute (90′+3) to give his country victory over Cameroon in African zonal qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Libyan’s had taken an early lead through Ahmed Zouay  who beat goalkeeper Carlos Kameni with a powerful header barely 8 minutes into the game. Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting scored Cameroon’s only goal from a powerful free-kick at the edge of the 18-yard area. But he could not save Cameroon this time around…

Cameroon coach Denis Lavagne supervising training – has he got things wrong?
Picture credit: Linus Pascal Fouda (Team Press Officer)

It was becoming the new routine: Cameroon would play badly, unable to create opportunities but win through a goal by Choupo-Moting. It was the case in Guinea-Bissau and versus the Democratic Republic of Congo in Yaounde. The head coach Denis Lavagne and those who back him would then claim that the most important thing is victory, regardless of how it came about. Fair enough…but many (including Gef’s Football Club) warned that many things were not right. The same points led to Sunday’s defeat in Sfax:

1. Too many defensive players, hardly any creators: Lavagne played against Libya with seven players (Nkoulou, Chedjou, Mandjeck, Bedimo, Mbia, Song, Nguemo) who regularly hold defensive positions for their clubs. This is basically what he has been doing since he took over but he went one step further in Sfax where Alex Song was the player supporting the main striker in the first half. There is no denying that Song, Mbia and Ngeumo can push forward but they are hardly creators.

As indicated before on this blog, 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.

In the absence of such, when in possession Cameroon spent the time passing the ball around midfield with no penetration.  This was the case against Libya, DRC and Guinea Bissau.

2. No directness and urgency: Cameroonian teams are not the fastest in the world. The game is often played at a slow tempo because of the athleticism of the players (often big and tough). Cameroon teams often rely on their power and their ability to counter-attack. However, for this work the teams are also very direct i.e. they make quick straight passes forward via midfield in order to catch the opposition off-guard (Not just lumping long balls to the big man up top).

But Lavagne’s teams have so far been ponderous in their build-up, allowing the opponents to re-organise their defensive shapes. Only Choupo-Moting has the ability to dribble in small spaces but since he was also the only one up top (to score), it was hard to break the Libyans. It was the same situation versus Guinea Bissau and DRC but the Lions were lucky that he managed to get the winning goals.

3. Mis-use of available resources (players): Why would Lavagne tell the world that Willy Overtoom who switched allegiance from Holland to Cameroon would bring that creativity (as playmaker) that the Lions lack only to keep the boy on the reserve bench for 180 minutes during which a defensive midfielder (Song) was played as a number 10? Is Overtoom not up to the hype surrounding him?

Why did Lavagne decide to play Georges Mandjeck (a central midfielder and centreback) as a right fullback when Allan Nyom – a regular right fullback was on the bench? At the end of the day, Mandjeck was in such trouble that the right forward, Benjamin Moukandjo, practically spent his whole game defending to spare Cameroon further blushes against Libya? Did the coach realise that Nyom was not up to scratch and less than the much maligned Angbwa Ossomeyong?

4. Tactics and animation: Lavagne has opted to play 4-3-3. It is his choice. However, he seemed not to know how to make the formation work for his team to move the ball from defence to attack. He started with a triangle in the middle that had Song at the tip playing as a number 10. The Arsenal man barely touched the ball and when he did he was sloppy or unimaginative. By half-time the coach reverted to the style he had used before with Stephane Mbia sweeping infront of the back-four while Alexandre Song and Landry Nguemo played slightly ahead of him – with a mission to link up with the attackers. But the final ball was ever so poor.

As much as Vincent Aboubakar and Moukandjo huffed and puffed on the flanks, they hardly ever put in a cross. Mandjeck just won’t overlap from right-back and when Bedimo did so on the left, his final ball was not good enough, giving the Libyans (like the Congolese before) the opportunity to launch quick counter-attacks. If the Libyans had been a better side, the defeat would have been heavier for Cameroon.

5. Bad defending of set pieces: Both Libyan goals were scored from set-plays. Given the athleticism of the Cameroon team – that should not happen. In the corner that led to the Libya winner, it was Yannick Ndjeng who was left defending the big Libyan, Osman, who beat Kameni to the ball and scored. In what looked like a poor mastery of zonal marking, Zouay was completely free to head-in the curtain raiser.

Not only are the Lions bad at defending set pieces, they just do not have anyone to take good free-kicks and corners. Apart from Choupo’s effort that led to the equaliser, every other free-kick and corner was squandered by the team – Landry Ngeumo being the main culprit.

6. A coach lacking personality and guts: Denis Lavagne talks a lot in the media about how he would confound those who doubt his abilities. It’s about time he starts showing the same purpose and guts in his team choices and the way he manages the team. He seems to be more concerned about not losing, than he is focused on winning. He looks lost on the touchline and (apart from the move to have the team play 4-2-3-1 after Nguemo’s injury in Yaounde towards the end of the DRC game) unable to make tactical switches.  He makes the same changes all the time (Salli coming in) regardless of the context.

It’s unclear if he is the boss or he has handed over his duties to Rigobert Song the team (logistics) manager. Lavagne also appears to be overawed by the big names and personalities in the squad he is supposed to be “re-building” i.e. unable to substitute Mbia, Song, etc even when they are having a bad game. If he can’t handle such players- what would happen if/when Samuel Eto’o returns?

These are just a few things which caused defeat from Cameroon’s perspective. But take nothing away from the Libyans. They not only showed heart and determination but also displayed tactical savvy as well as good technical quality in the periods when they outplayed Cameroon in midfield. Their victory is well-deserved.

UPDATE: Libya defeated Cameroon 2-1 in a 2012 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Sunday. Click here for six reasons why the Lions lost

Nicolas Nkoulou returns in the centre of Cameroon’s defence as the Indomitable Lions take on Libya’s Knights of the Mediterranean this Sunday, according to Cameroon media reports. Nkoulou, who had an impressive debut season for Marseille in the French Ligue 1,  was forced to watch his teammates beat Congo (DRC) 1-0 due to an injury.

Cameroon players training at Sousse in Tunisi

Cameroon players training at Sousse in Tunisia ahead of the game with Libya. Photo credit (hand-out): Linus Pascal Fouda (Team Press Officer)

He teams up with Lille’s Aurelien Chedjou to form what is looking like Cameroon’s favoured centre-back pairing. They played together versus Mauritius in Yaounde (under Javier Clemente) and against Guinea Bissau (under Denis Lavagne in Bissau). Nkoulou’s return means Dany Noukeu, who partnered Chedjou in Yaounde versus the DRC, drops to the bench.

Leonard Kweuke is the other played dropped from the starting eleven that played against the DRC . The big striker  has been replaced by Valencienne’s Vincent Aboubakar. The young Aboubakar is quicker, more technical  and can play in a wide position. With him on the pitch, it is evident that the coaches have gone for Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting as the main striker.

The left-back, Henri Bedimo,passed a fitness test and keeps his position. As such there are no other changes from the team that played last week. It is expected that the team would operate in coach Lavagne’s preferred  4-3-3 formation.

Here’s the complete starting eleven:  Goalkeeper: Idris Carlos Kameni

Defence: Georges Mandjeck (RB) – Nicolas Nkoulou (CB), Aurelien Chedjou (CB) – Henri Bedimo (LB)

Midfield: Landry Nguemo - Stephane Mbia – Alex Song

Attack: Vincent Aboubakar (RF) – Choupo-Moting (CF) – Benjamin Moukandjo (LF)

The match kicks off at 1600hrs (1700hrs in Cameroon) according to the BBC. The game will be played in Sfax, Tunisia for security reasons.

Cameroon beat the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 1-0 in front many empty terraces to start-off their qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on a good footing.They top their group with three points.  It could have been a different story, though, had Congo been a more clinical team.

Congo’s Leopards had the best scoring opportunities in the first-half at the 9th, 14th and 43rd minutes of play but they were denied by Cameroon’s goalkeeper Idris Carlos Kameni.

A goal from Choupo-Moting (in white) saves Cameroon under Dennis Lavagne and Martin Ndtoungou (both in green). Picture by Linus Pascal Fouda

Football being far from a perfect science, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions  scored  the only goal of the encounter through the individual brilliance of their Germany-based striker Choupo-Moting. He dazzled the Congolese defenders with some tricky moves and was ultimately floored for a penalty-kick. He showed great mental strength by scoring his spot-kick the second time of asking  after the referee ruled out his first (successful) attempt.

If anyone feels there was nothing to write home about, the Lions’ coach Denis Lavagne would point to the result. He has won five in five including two competitive ties against Guinea Bissau (1-0) and DRC (1-0). Yet, the under pressure Frenchman could hardly conceal his relief after the game.

“This (victory) is liberating for me and for the players…You know that many people expected us to lose. But no, we won and we will be there next week (to play against Libya),” he told Cameroon national television (CRTV) after the game.

A win is a good thing. It means 3 points are in the bag.  What  happens when Choupo-Moting can’t save the day?

Here are some tactical notes from the game:

1. Team & Formation: Coach Lavagne stuck to his preferred 4-3-3 formation that he has used since he took over the reigns of the team in November last year. He started with Georges Mandjeck at right-back; Henri Bedimo (Left-back); Dany Noukeu (centre-back) and Aurelien Chedjou (centre-back). Stephane Mbia was sweeping infront of the back-four while Alexandre Song and Landry Nguemo played slightly ahead of him – with a mission to link up with the attackers: Benjamin Moukandjo (left-forward); Choupo-Moting (Right-forward) and Kwekeu (centre-forward).

Edgar Sali came on for Kweuke after 60 minutes. He played on the left flank while Choupo Moting moved to centre-forward. Mbuta Andongcho replaced the injured Ngeumo near the end of the encounter leading to a tactical shift to 4-2-3-1. Song and Mbia were the two centre midfielders, Andongcho played on right flank, Sali on the left and Moukandjo played behind Choupo.

2. Attack: As the home team one would have expected Cameroon to take the game to the Congolese but that didn’t happen. The Lions’ build-up was slow and ponderous. Their passing was awful. All of which allowed the Congolese to regroup and hold their defensive shape. Lavagne must ask for greater urgency from his players.

Congo’s manager, Claude Leroy,  had flooded the midfield to deny Cameroon space and time to play the ball. This kept Ngeumo and Song in check. The ball hardly reached the attackers in the first-half. Choupo-Moting looked like a spectator. Kwekeu was isolated and always had two DRC defenders with him.

There was little variety in attacks which all came from the left flank where  Bedimo had a fruitful partnership with Moukandjo and later Sali. Bedimo even forced the Congolese keeper to a save minutes after Choupo-Moting’s goal. Things didn’t quite tick on the right flank where Mandjeck (normally a central midfielder or a centre-back) operated as fullback.

There was a slight improvement in the second-half. Song and Nguemo pushed further forward to dictate play and create chances. However their final balls were not the best and they are certainly not natural goal-scorers. Song, for instance, fumbled after Choupo-Moting put him through to goal via a cheeky lob over  the Congolese defence line.

3. Defence: The defenders had never played together as a unit (in the same positions) before. The Noukeu-Chedjou partnership looked comfortable dealing with longs-balls but was a bit brittle when the Congolese stretched the game wide and made quick passes on the ground.

Bedimo was generally good on the left. Mandjeck, however, had difficulty with his defensive duties on the right, requiring Noukeu to regularly come to his rescue. Lavagne also has to remind his centre-midfielders to provide cover to the fullbacks when the latter surge forward. The absence of such cover exposed Bedimo who was the most attacking of the fullbacks.

Stephane Mbia started slowly on his return to the position of holding midfielder for the Lions. He looked out of shape (he’s just back from injury), his first touch was heavy and his passing wayward.  He improved in the second-half and showed the energy and drive fans are more accustomed to. I would like to see Joel Matip or Chedjou tested in that role again, though.

4. Set-plays: Where is Geremi when you need him? Cameroon’s corner-kicks and free-kicks were a sham. If Ngeumo intends to become the set-piece specialist of the team, he needs to contact Geremi for lessons. His shots often landed near the stands. There was no coordinated movement for corner-kicks. It was poor – enough said.

5. Comment: Here are the words of CRTV pundit Ekinneh Ebai after the game: “There was no cohesion in the play. The play-style was insipid, it was slow, incoherent; a combination of 22 legs just kicking the ball and running wildly hoping something would happen…we got the win but it was a disappointing win.”

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