Category: International Soccer


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.

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.

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.”

Pierre Lechantre who led Cameroon to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 has been named as Senegal’s new head coach. Good for Senegal. But it’s curious that Senegalese football authorities and the media have been presenting the Frenchman as the coach who won the men’s soccer Olympic Gold Medal with Cameroon in Sydney, Australia.

“The 62-year-old has previously coached Cameroon, leading them to the 2000 Nations Cup and Olympic titles,” a story published on the BBC website said.

That’s not correct and it is unfair to former Cameroon international, Jean Paul Akono, who was the head coach of Cameroon’s Olympic squad at the Sydney games in 2000. (Read reference to Akono in this CNNSI article from September 2000).

Maybe the confusion arises from the fact that the squad in Sydney included several players (Samuel Eto’o, Pierre Wome, Geremi Njitap, Lauren Etame, Patrick Mboma, Daniel Bekono) who were part of the squad that won Nations Cup in February of that same year under Lechantre.

It is, however, surprising that Lechantre himself has not clarified the situation. He was the head coach (manager) of Cameroon Senior national team while Akono was head coach of the country’s U-23 (Olympic) national team. At the Olympics, teams are authorised to select 3 players above the age of 23, which explains Patrick Mboma’s presence in Sydney.

As the head of the senior team, Lechantre could have been part of the official delegation with (possibly) an advisory role but he was clearly not the manager.

Tactically, Akono played a much higher defensive line than the Frenchman did with the senior Indomitable Lions. Akono’s style depended a lot on catching opponents offside and launching quick counter-attacks (but also meant they conceded many goals or committed dangerous fouls when the line wasn’t firmly held).

Yet some pundits claimed that Akono was lucky to have had a set of young players who, for the most part, were already full internationals who had even won a Nations Cup.

Akono may not be the fan’s favourite (more on that below) but as the saying goes – give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. It was Akono, his assistants: Martin Ndtoungou Mpile (currently deputy head coach of the Indomitable Lions), Engelbert Mbarga and the goalkeeping trainer Thomas Nkono who were taking decisions on the touchline; not Lechantre.

Moreover, Lechantre’s troubles in Cameroon were closely linked to Akono’s “success” at the Olympics as  the then Minister of Sport, Bidoun Mpkatt (currently Minister of Youth Affairs), made Akono head coach of the senior national team and controversially “promoted” Lechantre to the position of National Technical Director in November 2000.

Lechantre’s popularity among many senior internationals, fans and the media led to a vast campaign against the Cameroonian Akono, who was forced to resign following a defeat to Angola in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. Lechantre was re-appointed head coach but he was sacked for good after Cameroon under-performed at the Japan-Korea Confederations Cup in 2001.

Hopefully his time in Senegal will be less turbulent.

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.

Cameroon’s new coaching staff  face a tough start to their tenure after nine players they had short-listed for a series of international friendly matches in North Africa withdrew from the squad due to injuries.

With six defenders (3 centre-backs and 3 left fullbacks) unavailable for selection the head coach Denis Lavagne has to stitch up an all new defence line for Friday’s duel with Sudan.

Lavagne would have to play midfielders as defenders. He is lucky to have Joel Matip, Alex Song and Georges Mandjeck who have played in their European clubs at centre-back this season (or even before) whereas they are nominally holding midfielders.

It is likely that one of the right fullbacks (Allan Nyom) would have to slot into the left-back role in the match against Sudan. Two Cameroon based left fullbacks – Abouna Ndzana and Oyongo Bitolo – have been summoned to join the squad and they are expected to be available for selection in the next game.

Whatever the case, coordination would be a challenge, particularly in the defence, as the players have no prior knowledge of each other’s movements.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) have to stitch-up the defence (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

LAVAGNE’S OPTIONS

It is clear that the defence will be very young and inexperienced with all the probable starters having a grand total of  less than 20 international caps between them. But what about the midfield and attack?  Would Lavagne and his team go for more youthfulness?

For instance, would he dare to keep Samuel Eto’o on the bench and start with an attack line including the likes of Jacques Zoua, Bienvenu Ntsama and Vincent Aboubakar who used to play under his stewardship at Cotonsport Garoua in Cameroon?

The Lions need to be united to succeed despite the injuries (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Cameroon Team Press Officer)

Lavagne had surely based his tactical options on the skills of certain players who are absent. It would be interesting to see how the Frenchman opts to play.

In the final days of Javier Clemente’s reign as Cameroon manager, the team seemed to be toying with a 3-man midfield and 4-3-3 formation. But the Spaniard often reverted to a 4-2-3-1. Would Lavagne stick to these formations?

I know that Lavagne’s assistant, Ndtoungou Mpile, favours the 4-4-2, usually with two holding midfielders and two wide men. When he needed to win a game at all cost, the former Junior Lions manager would field a diamond midfield (1 holding midfielder,2 shuttlers instead of wingers and 1 playmaker behind the front 2) .  Will Lavagne use these ideas?

Possible team: Ndy Assembe; Benoit Angbwa-Joel Matip, Georges Mandjeck – Allan Nyom; Landry N’Geumo, Enow Eyong, Alex Song; Samuel Eto’o, Choupo Moting, Jacques Zoua.

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

Cameroon’s women have won All-Africa Games gold for the first time by beating Ghana 1-0 in the women’s football final at Maputo’s national stadium while the men’s (U-23) team won Bronze at the tournament.

Madeleine Mani Ngono headed in a cross in the 56th minute in the Ladies’ final that was played in front of a very small crowd, the BBC reported on Saturday.

“We’re very pleased, but Nigeria are still the best team in Africa,” said Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu.

The victory is Cameroon’s greatest achievement in women’s football, the BBC said (full match report here).

Meanwhile Cameroon’s men’s team beat Senegal 5-4 after post-match penalty-kicks in the third place play-off game. Both teams were tied at 1-1 after normal time, Cafonline reported.

Cameroon won this tournament thrice in a row (1999, 2003 and 2007) but their hegemony ended this year when Ghana defeated them 1-0 at the semi-finals on Wednesday.

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