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English pundits have been full of praise for Cameroon’s Alex Song for his commanding performance in midfield when Arsenal beat Manchester City 1-0 in a crunch English Premier League duel on Sunday.

Here is what David Pleat, a former Tottenham Hotspur manager, wrote in his column for The Guardian:

“A feature of Arsenal’s improvement has been the combination play of the three midfield men and here Alex Song, the most powerful of midfield bases, led the charge.”

Pleat added:

“When Song drives forward he invariably seeks his side’s goalscorer, Robin van Persie, curving lofted passes into his path. There was a time when he was considered purely a “Makelele type”, sitting in front of his centre-backs, cutting out danger. He began his career at Arsenal as a centre-back, where few staff members considered him first-team material. Arsène Wenger had faith and he is seeing the fruits of his outstanding judgment.”

Pleat concluded that:

“Song, one of the Premier League’s most underrated players, hit all the right notes while his team-mates have proved conclusively to City that money cannot buy you love. There is a feeling about Arsenal that translates into tenacious harmony.”

Victory takes Arsenal to third in the league, two points clear of Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s Tottenham Hotspur. If Arsenal hold on to that spot, they’d automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

However, the contest between the London rivals that feature two of Cameroon’s best acts of the European season (Song and Assou-Ekotto), still has some way to go with six games left.

Read David Pleat’s full match analysis here.

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).

Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) not picked while his club mate Sebastien Bassong (R) is in Cameroon squad

Cameroon’s head coach Javier Clemente has named Edgar Sali (Monaco) and Joel Matip (Shalke 04) in a 23-man squad, that does not include Tottenham’s  Assou-Ekotto, to face Mauritius in Yaounde next month.

The 18-year-old Sali was named the player of the tournament at the African Youth Championships this year but was unable to join his teammates for the U-20 World Cup in Columbia after he signed for French Ligue 2 side Monaco in July.

He is used as a wide midfielder for the Junior Lions although he has the potential to become a forward going central midfield dynamo.

Twenty-year-old Joel Matip, has not played for Cameroon since he appeared as a substitute in a friendly against Macedonia. This hasn’t gone down well with many Cameroon football fans who watch Matip in midfield or central defence for his German Club. He reached the semi-finals of the European Champions League with Shalke 04 this year.

WHO’S IN?

Cameroon’s Spanish-born manager  handed a first call-up to Leonie Kweuke, a striker who plays for Sparta Prague. Henri Bienvenu Tsama (Young Boys Berne), who appeared for the Lions in a friendly against Poland last year is given a second chance to prove his worth.

Midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba (Odense, Denmark) and France-based forward Alo’o Efoulou (AS Nancy)  have also been recalled. Djemba has not featured for Cameroon since 2009 while Efoulou is picked  for the first time since the Africa Cup of Nations in 2010.

Meanwhile Alexandre Song (Arsenal) is expected to make his full come-back for the Lions after a one-year hiatus.

ASSOU-EKOTTO

However, Clemente has no place in his squad for Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The Spurs left-back has been left out for disciplinary reasons, the assistant coach Francois Omam Biyick said on a local TV station.

“The problem with Assou-Ekotto started before the game against Senegal when we held a friendly against Macedonia. He was called to camp but he did not come and nobody knew where he was. The coach tried Gaetan Bong and was satisfied,” Omam is quoted as saying.

There was an uproar in March when Assou-Ekotto didn’t make the squad to face Senegal in Dakar and the staff was forced to later recall him. He was among Cameroon’s best performers in that game.But he did not turn-up for the return-leg although he had been named in the team.

He was summoned to a Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) disciplinary hearing to explain his absence but he didn’t appear in person.

Omam said if the final decision was his to make he would pick Assou-Ekotto because he is among Cameroon’s very best at the moment.

WHO’s OUT?

Charles Itandje dropped by Clemente ahead of Mauritius Game

The other high profile absentee is Achille Webo, the former Majorca forward who has moved to Turkey.

Clemente admires Webo but dropped him to the bench in Yaounde against Senegal. After promising displays by the youngsters fielded in that match maybe the Spaniard now understands why  Webo wasn’t such a big hit among the fans.

The former Liverpool keeper Charles Itandje  (cf photo) has also  been dropped and replaced by the young  Jules Goda.

Stephane Mbia (Marseille) and Vincent Aboubakar (Valencienne) are injured and out of contention for a place in the squad.

West Bromwich Albion’s Somen Tchoyi may feel slighted by the coaches though, given the fine form he has shown as a versatile forward for the team in the early days of the 2011/2012 English Premier League.

Here’s the complete list as published on the FECAFOOT website:

1. Idriss Carlos Kameni, RCD Espanyol – Spain

2. Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

3. Jules Goda, Portimonense – Portugal

4. Benoit Angbwa, FK Anzhi Makhachkala – Russia

5. Nicolas Nkoulou, Olympique Marseille – France

6. Sebastien Bassong, Tottenham Hotspurs – England

7. Gaetan Bong, FC Valenciennes – France

8. Eyong Takang Enoh, AFC Ajax Amsterdam – Holland

9. Aurelien Chedjou, Lille OSC – France

10. Eric Djemba Djemba, OB Odense – Denmark

11. Henri Bedimo, Montpellier – France

12. Landry Nguemo, Girondins de Bordeaux – France

13. Alexandre Song, Arsenal – England

14. Andongcho Mathew Mbuta, Chrystal Palace -USA

15. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, FSV Mainz 05 – Germany

16. Benjamin Moukandjo, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

17. Samuel Eto’o, FK Anzhi Makhachkala – Russia

18. Ngako Deutcha Duvalois, Sable FC de Batie – Cameroun

19. Joel Matip, Schalke 04 – Germany

20. Paul Alo’o Efoulou, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

21. Bienvenu Ntsama, Young Boys – Switzerland

22. Edgar Salli, AS Monaco – France

23. Leonard Kweuke, AC Sparta Prague – Czech Republic

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Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the Cameroon international Somen Tchoyi for giving the reigning English Champions a tough test in their 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion (WBA) on Sunday.

“The lad Tchoyi gave us a bit of trouble,” Ferguson said after the match.

The 1.90m Tchoyi, playing as a support striker, worked the United defence for long spells in the game as he tussled with central defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and imposed himself physically.

Somen on the right of this photo warms-up before a Cameroon game

He started the move that led to WBA’s equaliser by overpowering United’s young Brazilian fullback Fabio to recover lost possession at the edge of the Champions’ 18-yard. His strike partner Shane Long then finished the move with a shot that should have been stopped on another day by United’s keeper, David De Gea.

Tchoyi also impressed with his good –short and long range – passing and his willingness to take on defenders using speed and tricky dribbles.

The tactics used by Roy Hodgson, the WBA manager, allowed the Cameroonian to drop into his natural central midfield position and come from deep to occupy the space between the lone striker and the other midfielders in order to dictate play. He was also free to go wide to whip in crosses.

The former Liverpool manager praised both his attackers for putting pressure on United and regretted that they lost the game.

“I thought his (Long’s) performance in general was very good as was Tchoyi’s,” Hodgson said after the game.

It’s unfortunate that most Indomitable Lions managers have hardly thought of playing Tchoyi as an attacking central midfielder or a second striker which are (in my opinion) the positions where he is most effective. He is often used as a winger or wide attacker (in a front three).

Song Stamps Reputation

The former Union Douala player’s performance certainly paints a better picture of Cameroonian footballers than the temperamental display from Alex Song for Arsenal in their goalless draw with Newcastle United on Saturday.

Song played admirably well as a midfield sweeper in-front of Arsenal’s back-four but for some reason decided to stamp on Joey Barton after a challenge. Barton may not be most people’s best friend  (as confirmed by his role in the confrontation that led to Ivory Coast’s Gervinho being sent-off) but there was absolutely no excuse for Song to stamp on the Englishman’s leg.

The defensive midfielder who hasn’t played for Cameroon since the 2010 World Cup may be suspended if the English Football Association decides to use video evidence against him.

Meanwhile, George Elokobi came on as a late substitute for Wolverhampton Wanderers in their 2-1 away win over Blackburn Rovers.

The other Cameroonians operating in the English Premier League were absent on the first day of the new season. Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto could not play because Tottenham’s fixture against Everton was postponed following rioting in London.  Jean Makoun was left on the bench by Aston Villa in the Birmigham club’s goalless draw with Fulham.

Alexandre Song scored the curtain raiser in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat of Chelsea on Monday night in the English Premier League.

The midfielder, who hails from Cameroon, was at the end of a string of passes by the north London side at the edge of a crowded Chelsea 18 yard area, one minute before half-time.

It was Song’s fifth goal of the season as he seeks to make Arsenal fans forget Patrick Vierra, the French holding midfielder, who played Song’s role in the club’s most successful years of the decade.

Meanwhile, Song has not featured for Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions since the World Cup in South Africa last June. He was reportedly involved in the internal fracas that seems to have affected the west/central Africans at the tournament.

He seems to happy at his professional club that has moved to the second position of the English League with 35 points (alongside Manchester City) just behind leaders, Manchester United (37 points). 

Arsenal’s other goals were scored just after the break by captain Cesc Fabregas (51st minute) and Englishman Theo Walcott  (53rd minute) . Chelsea reduced tally via defender Branislav Ivanovic in the 57th minute.

Cameroon’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong put in a solid display in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with reigning English premier league champions Chelsea.

Assou-Ekotto prevented Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou and later Daniel Sturridge from rampaging down the flank and making dangerous crosses. He was also prompt to cover his central defenders during sharp Chelsea counter-attacks, earning him a lot of praise from Sky TV commentators throughout the game.

The Cameroonian left-back, who is often criticised by some Spurs fans for his positioning, contributed to his team’s goal via a wonderful  through ball for Jermaine Defoe behind the Chelsea right-back Paulo Ferriera. Defoe passed on to Russian-born Roman Pavlyuchenko whose low drive beat Chelsea’s keeper 15 minutes into the game.

Sebastien Bassong, the other Indomitable Lion, was strong at central defence where his partnership with England’s Michael Dawson held Nicolas Anelka in-check for most of the first half.

He also showed physical strength, winning headers against Didier Drogba who came on as a  second half substitute. The Ivorian,though, out-muscled Dawson to score a goal that should have been stopped by Spur’s keeper, Heurelho Gomes, at the 70th minute of play.

Bassong maintained concentration and power which kept Drogba from beating him to the ball in one-on-one duels. The Ivorian had to resort to tugging the Cameroonian’s shirt to have his way but was caught by the referees.

Good for Cameroon

Cameroon’s national team coach Javier Clemente should be pleased by such a performance from two of his first-choice defenders as he sets his sight to challenge Senegal next March in Dakar.

However, with football’s ups and downs the story might be different by then. For instance, Bassong has William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and Ledley King  (who are currently injured) to compete with for a starting spot in Tottenham’s central defence. Would he still be keeping his place and match fitness by March?

Clemente would naturally hope that the central defender stays in the picture and should be expecting the same from two other Cameroonians – Somen Tchoyi and George Elokobi – who were impressive this weekend.

Elokobi played the full 90 minutes at left-back for Wolverhampton in their 1-0 defeat of Birmingham City. The big man, who was called-up for the first time to the Indomitable Lions den in November, displayed passion, grit and power as he defended on Sunday afternoon.

Tchoyi, who missed out on the World Cup, has been having a brilliant season since he moved from Austrian club Salzburg to West Bromwich Albion. He has already scored 4 league goals and was recalled to the Lions’ den in November. 

He should have scored again on Saturday when his team clashed with Aston Villa but his thunder-bolt shot ricocheted on the cross-bar after he had seamlessly dribbled from the right flank. Aston Villa beat them 2-1.   

Matchday 17 in the premier league ends on Monday with a top of the table clash between Manchester United and Arsenal which features Alexandre Song Billong from Cameroon.

Song has not been called to defend his country’s colours since the World Cup in South Africa. Interestingly he has also stopped wearing arm-bands bearing the colours of Cameroon’s flag which the likes of George Elokobi continue to do…

Arsenal striker Emannuel Adebayor has trained with his mates of the Togolese national team ahead of their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Cameroon built for Accra – Ghana. The captain of the Hawks (nickname of the Togolese team) could be seen in the video below jogging with the group and receiving tactical advice from their Belgian-born manager Jean Thissen.

When Adebayor was included in the selection called to camp for this game, many pundits suggested that he was merely going to serve as a morale booster for the rest of the players. They argued that Togo would not risk a club versus country row by playing the foward who is  recovering from a hamstring injurey that has kept him out of Arsene Wenger’s team for the past weeks. But a member of Togo’s techanical staff is quoted as saying that Adebayor did not make the trip for nothing. His presence in training so far suggests that he may well be involved Saturday’s confrontation.

Fans in West Africa are eager to watch a match-up between the Indomitable Lions’ Samuel Eto’o (three time African footballer of the year) and Emmanuel Adebayor who received the CAF African Player of the Year 2008 award in February. The last time the two faced each other while playing for their national teams was in January 2006 at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Eto’o who had just returned from a knee injury led the Lions to a 2-0 victory (scoring and making an assist) against the Hawks who were on their way to the FIFA World Cup in Germany.

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