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Cameroon’s national football team defeated South Africa 1-0 in their opening fixture at the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations holding in Namibia on a weekend when the men’s national team drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone in Yaounde.

The Lionesses scored at the 87th minute through 18-year-old Raissa Feudjio who stuck a leg and guided the ball into the net, taking advantage of poor handling by the Banyana Banyana goalkeeper. Cameroon started the game well with early strikes but most of the efforts were off target. The South Africans reacted and showed determination with attacking swagger of their own. The exciting first-half however ended goalless. The second-half was not as exciting from an attacking perspective but it was full of impressive defensive performances from the centre-backs of both sides.

Just as the handful of fans at the stadium began to think the game would end in a stalemate, Cameroon stepped on the accelerator obtaining a couple of corners and free-kicks. One the corner-kicks paid off. Ougene took an in-swinger that seemed to surprise the South African keeper. She could not decide whether to punch or catch the ball and fumbled. Her poor second attempt to make a save sent the ball crashing on the head of one of her defenders who headed towards Feudjio. The latter struck the only goal of the game.

The Lionesses’ win over a direct rival for qualification to the next round of the competition brought out celebratory dance moves from the players, head coach Enaw Ngatchou and his staff. The team is in a tough group that also features Algeria and Ghana.

LIONS HELD

The Lionesses have surely shown the way forward to their male counterparts who were held to a draw on Saturday in Yaounde by Sierra Leone. The Indomitable Lions remain top of their group with seven points but are closely followed by the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire who defeated the Leopards of Congo (DRC) 2-1 to rise to six points. DRC have 3 points after two defeats and one victory.

Cameroon could mathematically qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday if they defeat Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire also win their game versus the DRC. Cameroon would have 10 points and would only be possibly overtaken by the Ivorians and given that the top two teams progress to the tournament which is scheduled for Morocco, it would mark the Lions return after missing out twice (in 2012 and 2013).

But all of that is yet to come. Today, the focus should be on the Lionesses who worked hard to earn their win. The Cameroonians had 13 shots at goal with 4 on target including Feudjio’s winner. The CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations kicked-off on Saturday with favorites Nigeria trouncing Côte d’Ivoire 4-2 while the hosts Namibia defeated Zambia 2-0.

Are the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on the path to resurrection after a farcical World Cup campaign? After Vincent Aboubacar and Clinton Njie each scored a brace to enable Cameroon defeat the Ivory Coast 4-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations 2015 qualifier, there are many in the soccer-mad country who think so. 

Playing the Ivory Coast was supposed to be the big test for Volker Finke’s new look Indomitable Lions. Yes, they may have defeated the Leopards of the Congo (DRC) in Lumumbashi but could they cut it against a star-studded Ivorian team including Yaya Toure, Gervinho,Bony, Arthur Boka, Soulemane Bamba, Cheikh Tiote?  Well, Njie, Aboubacar, the impressive young goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoua and the rest of the Lions didn’t really care. 

Cameroon playing dominated the early exchanges. Georges Mandjeck who wasn’t at his very best in Lumumbashi upped his game in central midfield alongside the ever combative Eyong Enoh, quickly seizing control of that vital part of the pitch. This allowed Choupo-Moting to stay closer to Aboubacar who this time around kept his game simple and efficient. On Cameroon’s left flank, Njie gave the Ivorian right full-back a torrid time. The young forward breezed past his marker on several occasions and his beautiful runs created openings for a quick back to front transmission of the ball.

It is such a blistering counter-attack move that led to the opener after a poorly constructed Ivory Coast corner routine led to a clearance and a quick pass up front for Cameroon. Njie artfully controlled with a back-heel volley then drilled a shot which was deflected into the net. He scored another after a similarly well constructed move down the left but it was ruled out for offside. 

The Ivorians got back into the game forcing the Lions to defend deep and close to their 18-yard area. Gervais Yao aka Gervinho looked a real menace down the left flank but their equaliser came from a move on the opposite side. A shot was poorly handled by Ondoua and Yaya Toure who had slipped away from his markers struck home for 1-1. 

It was possibly Ondoua’s last error in the game. The young man from FC Barcelona’s ‘B’ or academy side had a stellar performance after that blip particularly in the second half. Before the first half ended though, Cameroon was already leading 2-1 following a well taken goal by Aboubacar who concluded a beautiful move and classy pass by the ever elegant Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting. 

While commentators and pundits were expecting an Ivorian come-back, it was Finke’s lads who inflicted a killer blow on the much vaunted Elephants of Ivory Coast. Around the 55th minute, an Ivorian player clattered Choupo-Moting who was forced out of play. Finke quickly asked for a substitution. The Lions who had a obtained a throw-in, waited for Leonard Kweuke the substitute to come on. His first touch was to chest down the ball from the throw to Njie who passed it on to Aboubacar for his second and Cameroon’s third goal. 

That effort was beautiful but the best goal of the day was scored by Njie who received a great reverse pass into the 18-yard from Aboubacar. The young Olympique Lyonnais forward chested the ball and took it on the volley with his left foot past the stunned Boubacar Barry in the Ivorian goal. Njie’s celebration was even better. He remained on his knees looking blank as if he had done nothing to the point that one TV commentator thought the goal had been ruled out. 

The Indomitable Lions should have scored more. Kweuke hit post while Edgar Salli who had come on for Njie missed a one-on-one. The Ivorians tried to score a consolation but their attempts including a fantastic free-kick by Yaya Toure were all plucked and saved by Ondoua who once again justified his selection ahead of the more experienced Ndy Assembe. It ended 4-1 in favour of the new look Lions against the much fancied Elephants

With two games played, six goals scored, one conceded and six points in the bag Cameroon are top of their group. The DRC that defeated Sierra Leone 2-0 in the other game in the group have 3 points as do the Ivory Coast but the Congolese have a better goal difference. Should Cameroon win both its games against Sierra Leone in October they would have qualified to the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010. 

Amid the euphoria that has followed these two victories Cameroon must remember that qualification is still to come. Games are won on the pitch and not before they are played. As Finke mentioned in a pre-match press conference, winning games is good but (re)building a new squad is even better. That process is still on.

For instance, Aboubacar improved his all round play and Njie showed better defensive cover than was the case versus the DRC. He made passes when he had to and shot at the right moments which contributed in Cameroon’s better performance. Stephane Mbia committed fewer fouls while Georges Mandjeck displayed the skills that made him such a great prospect when he burst in the limelight back in 2008 with the junior and under-23 teams. The full-backs Jerome Guinota (right) and Oyongo Bitolo also stepped up their game. 

It’s certainly not perfect but maybe Finke is on to something with this pride of Indomitable Lions. 

When Cameroon take on Cote d’Ivoire in an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2015 qualifier this Wednesday afternoon in Yaounde, they will be fielding the same eleven players that started in the country’s 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last Saturday.

This will see Fabrice Ondoa in goal, Nicolas Nkoulou and captain Stephane Mbia in central defence while the full-backs will be Oyongo Bitolo (on the left) and Jerome Guihota on the right.

Former vice-captain Enog Eyong will partner Georges Mandjeck in central midfield. Benjamin Moukandjo and Clinton Njie who scored the curtain-raiser in Lumumbashi will play on the flanks (often switching) while Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting will be an advanced midfielder cum play-maker and support behind the lone strker Vincent Abubakar.

Cote d’Ivoire to start with a very experienced squad including Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Gervais Yao (Gervinho).

Côte d’Ivoire : Barry – Bamba – Aurier – Kone Lamine – Boka Junior – Toure – Tiote – Akpa Akpro – Gradel – Gervais Yao – Wilfried Bony.

Clinton Njie Scores on Debut as Cameroon Defeat Congo 2-0

If Cameroon were to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations to hold in Morocco next year, Clinton Mua Njie who scored the curtain raiser for Cameroon against the Democratic Republic of Congo will feature as the man who set the ball rolling for the ‘new look’ Indomitable Lions.

The 21-year-old sprinted from the right flank during extra play time in the first-half, collected a through ball from Vincent Abubakar and fired past Congolese keeper Idiaba to mark his first international cap in style.

The Olympique Lyon forward was one of four youngsters who were handed their international debut by head coach Volker Finke as the German seeks to rebuild a new Cameroon national team.

Oyongo Bitolo at left-back, Jerome Guihota at right-back and goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoua were the other debutants. All of them showed promise and determination but it was Njie who quickly caught the eye. Playing on the wide forward/midfield positions he combined beautifully with Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Abubakar. However, he scuffed two beautiful chances that came his way in the first-half before finishing superbly to give Cameroon a deserved lead.

Sluggish Leopards

Cameroon didn’t need to show much to be on top of the game though. The Congolese were not a the races despite playing at home on the synthetic turf with confusing lines at the TP Mazembe Stadium in Lumumbashi. They hardly combined well and barely tested the Cameroon’s teenage goalkeeper Ondoua who is still an academy boy at FC Barcelona in Spain.

The Indomitable Lions weren’t brilliant too. Benjamin Moukandjo and Vincent Abubakar kept on with their usual habit of dribbling well but finishing poorly. The new skipper Stephane Mbia, who partnered former vice-captain Nicolas Nkoulou in central defense, picked up an early yellow card for a rash challenge. Enoh Eyong and Georges Mandjeck took a while to wrest control of the midfield. But once Cameroon settled they never really let off again.

The Congolese stepped into the second half with a determination to equalize but they squandered chances or were denied further progress from the reinvigorated Nkoulou and impressive goalkeeping from Ondoua.

Maestro Choupo-Moting

Cameroon countered with speed and Eric Choupo-Moting delivered a good performance as a playmaker. He distributed the ball well, changed the tempo when it was required and surged forward to create attacking moves.
He was key to Finke’s fluid 4-2-3-1 formation which often morphed into a 4-2-1-3 when Choupo-Moting dropped into a more traditional number 10 role.

This was exemplified in the move that led to the second goal. It started with Choupo-Moting in midfield, a quick exchange with substitute Leonard Kweukeu who served Abubakar on the right side of the 18 yard area. The new FC Porto man dropped a shoulder, switched to his left foot, took aim and beat the Congolese goalkeeper at the 82nd minute. 

The rest of the game was very much like a stroll for the Lions who looked Indomitable this time around. Does this mean Cameroon is back? Not quite. The DRC Leopards were just poor. Some of the mistakes from Cameroon’s full backs or the centre midfielders would be punished by a better side. However, this victory should not be scoffed at. It is a first step. How the Lions fare against the Ivory Coast on Wednesday in Yaounde will be something to watch.

Score: DRC 0 -2 Cameroon

Cameroon’s head coach Volker Finke has handed senior international debuts to four youngsters in his starting team to face the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier this Saturday in Lumumbashi, according to media reports. (Read full match report here)

If news filtering in from Congo is confirmed, Joseph Fabrice Ondoua from FC Barcelona’s academy will start in goal ahead of the more experienced Ndy Assembe who was at the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup in 2010. There are also starting berths for Oyongo Bitolo, the former under 20 left-back who plays in the US for New York Red Bulls, as well as Jerome Guihota who plays for Valencienne in France. Forward Clinton Njie who has been rising within the ranks at Olympique Lyon in France also gets the nod as Cameroon seeks a fresh start after a woeful World Cup campaign last June.

Stephane Mbia (R) is now Cameroon's team captain  with  Choupo-Moting (L) his 1st deputy as manager Volker Finke attempts another new dawn for the Indomitable Lions.

Stephane Mbia (R) is now Cameroon’s team captain with Choupo-Moting (L) his 1st deputy as manager Volker Finke attempts another new dawn for the Indomitable Lions.

In what is likely to be 4-2-3-1 formation, the new captain Stephane Mbia is expected to partner Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence; Enoh Eyong and Georges Mandjeck, who is returning to the den after a hiatus, will feature in central midfield while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting should play as the central attacking midfielder/support forward behind the main striker Vincent Abubakar. It is expected that Clinton Njie and Benjamin Moukandjo will play in the wide attacking/midfield positions.

More than 70 percent of the 24-man squad that traveled to Lumumbashi for the game was not present at the World Cup in Brazil where Cameroon lost all their three group games, conceding eight goals and scoring just one. Prominent among the absentees are stalwarts such as Samuel Eto’o, Achille Webo and Jean Makoun who have now retired from international football.

Cameroon’s German-born head coach Volker Finke, who survived the torrent of changes that swept through the team after the dismal World Cup campaign, is cautious. During a pre-match press conference on Friday, he warned fans to expect a difficult journey ahead as the team embarks on (yet another attempt at) reconstruction. He said:

“Its true that there are many new players and many young players. That means that we need a little bit more time…Today, I can say for such a short time, it was a good atmosphere, everybody did a good job, but it is not a guarantee for a win. But if we continue to do like this, I’m sure we will have good results. May be [Saturday]it will be difficult, but in future, we will have good results.”

With very little time to train, Finke had to go for a blend of on and off regulars with some of the new talent that he has called up. Here’s what Finke said about working with new and older players:


“I think we did the best because it’s a really good atmosphere. All training sessions were in a really good spirit, good discipline, and also, I saw that among the players, they started a good communication. And this is something we need. We need good communications between young players, older players.”

Should fans expect a change of tactics?

Finke stuck to 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 throughout the World Cup in Brazil even when it looked too defensive or demanded players to curtail their attacking instincts. My view is that the team will play as a 4-2-3-1 which allows Choupo-Moting to play in the central role behind the main striker (that is if he is not the main striker). He is good on the wings but I feel it’s a waste to shunt him out there, like an auxiliary full-back, the way he was used at the World Cup.

Probable line up?

Playing 4-2-3-1:
Fabrice Ondoua (GK); Jerome Guihota (RB) – Nicolas Nkoulo (CB) – Stephane Mbia (CB) – Oyongo Bitolo (LB); Georges Mandjeck(CM) – Enoh Eyong (CM); Benjamin Moukandjo (AM) – Choupo Moting (CAM) – Clinton Njie (AM); Vincent Aboubakar (Striker)

Samuel Eto’o has announced that he is retiring from international football barely a few days after he was left out of a new look Cameroon squad and replaced as captain ahead of two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.

“I wish to inform you that I hereby put an end to my international career. On this occasion, I wish to thank all Africans in particular and all my fans to around for their love and support,” a statement on the player’s Official Facebook page said on Thursday.

Eto’o who  joined English Premiership side Everton on a free transfer this week made his debut for Cameroon in an international friendly against Costa Rica in 1997. He was the youngest player to feature the World Cup in France in 1998. His big break on the international scene, however, came in the 2000 Africa Nations Cup when he starred alongside Patrick Mboma in the forward line of Cameroon’s title winning

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto’o has said his final goodbye to the Indomitable Lions?

team.

He was part of the team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney in 2000 and went on to win a second Africa Cup in a row (Cameroon’s fourth) in 2002.

While he remains Cameroon’s all time best scorer at national team level, he continually faced criticism that despite his individual success (he is a four times African Player of the Year) and the trophies he won at club level in Europe (he won several Spanish league titles with FC Barcelona, two European Champions League trophies with the Catalan giants before adding a third with the Italian side Inter Milan) Cameroon stagnated at international level.

Troublesome Genius

He was often accused of fomenting trouble in the Cameroon dressing room, clashing with his team-mates, coaches and the country’s football authorities. Some suggested that he was the main protagonist in the row over World Cup participation premiums which led to Cameroon players refusing to board a flight to the World Cup in Brazil.

Although the Cameroon coach Volker Finke attributed his decision to leave Eto’o out of the squad to rejuvenation of the squad and also because the player had no club (at the time the squad was named), several Insiders felt the striker was paying the price for his role in that pre-World Cup farce and the disastrous campaign that followed.

Eto’o had in the past been suspended from the team for leading a player strike in 2012 when the Lions refused to play a friendly against Algeria over a row related to participation premiums.

Notwithstanding his rumored negative spots, Eto’o remained a real talisman for the Cameroon team and possibly the country’s most talented player at the moment. He will be missed by Cameroon, not for the goals he scored but more for his playmaking ability which were more apparent when he played for the national side.

In fact, he was rarely used as a central striker by most coaches from 2004, often deployed to the left or right of a three-man attack or as a playmaker behind the main striker.

It is the second time that Eto’o looks set to abandon the national colors. The difference this time though is that he made a formal announcement which wasn’t the case in late 2013 when it was rumored that he quit the selection.

He will be replaced as national team captain by Stephane Mbia who was appointed by the Cameroon minister for sport on Monday. Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar were named vice-captains.

Meanwhile, veteran Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun has also announced his retirement from international football. He had also been left out of the squad as Cameroon tries to rebuild after two humiliating World Cup participations in 2010 and 2014 and failing to qualify for the last two Africa. Cup of Nations tournaments.

Cameroon’s national soccer team captain Samuel Eto’o has not been selected for the country’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2015 qualifiers against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Côte d’Ivoire next month.

Eto’o is among 13 players who have not been called up after Cameroon’s disastrous 2014 World Cup showing in Brazil where the team lost all three group games and finished 32nd out of 32 teams.

Goalkeeper Charles Itandje, the left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto who head butted a team-mate during the team’s 4-0 defeat to Croatia, striker Achilles Webo and veteran midfielder Jean Makoun were also not included in the list of 25 players called to camp by head coach Volker Finke. Alexander Song who is serving a three match ban for striking and opponent in the back during the game against Croatia is also absent.

Finke’s list includes several young players, some of whom have not played any first team football with their European clubs. The youngsters include forward Jean Marie Dongou, defender Frank Bagnack and goalkeeper who play for FC Barcelona’s B team.

The German-born trainer has recalled goalkeeper Ndy Assembe (Nancy, France), left back Gaetan Mbong (Olympiakos, Greece), and midfielder Cedric Loe who were left out of the World Cup squad. There’s no space for Guy Armel Kana-Biyick who announced his international retirement after he was not picked for the Brazil expedition.

Here’s the full list as published on the website of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot).

I- GOALKEEPERS

NDY ASSEMBE (FC Nancy)

ABOGO, Pierre Sylvain (Tonnerre Yaoundé)

ONDOUA, Joseph Fabrice (FC Barcelona)

II- DEFENDERS

DJEUGOU, Cédric (Cotons Sport de Garoua)

GUIHOTA, Jérôme (FC Valenciennes, France)

MATIP, Joël (Schalke 04, Germany)

NKOULOU, Nicolas (Olympique Marseille, France)

BONG, Gaëtan (Olympiakos, Greece)

BAGNACK, Frank (FC Barcelona, Spain)

OYONGO BITOLO, Ambroise (New York Red Bulls, USA)

III- MIDFIELD & FORWARDS

ENOW EYONG –

MBIA, Stéphane –

LOE, Raoul Cédric (C.A Osasuna, Spain)

SALLI, Edgar (A.S Monaco, France)

ZOCK, Guy Christian (Cosmo de Bafia)

MANDJECK, Georges (Kayseri Erciyesspor, Turkey)

KIBONG à MBAMBA, Marc (Konyarspor, Turkey)

CHOUPO-MOTING, Eric (Schalke 04, Germany)

NGUEMO, Landry –

MOUKANDJO, Benjamin (Stade Reims, France)

ABOUBAKAR, Vincent (FC Lorient/Porto)

DONGOU, Jean Marie (FC Barcelona, Spain)

KWEUKE, Léonard (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey)

N’JIE, Clinton (Olympique Lyonnais, France)

ETOUNDI, Franck (FC Zurich, Switzerland)

Stand-by List

KOM, Franck (Etoile Sportive du Sahel)

MOUGANG MBASSOGO (Lion Blessé de Foutouni)

BANA MOUSSA (Coton Sport de Garoua)

TABEKOU OUAMBE (APEJES de Mfou)

NLATE EKONGOLO, Brice (Olympique Marseille)

If Cameroon want to stay in the World Cup they must beat Croatia tonight and they would have to do that without their Captain Samuel Eto’o who is struggling with a knee problem. Head coach Volker Finke has picked his men for the battle of Manaus in what looks like 4-3-3.

Charles Itandje returns as goalkeeper; Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou would apparently remain as a the centre back partnership. Stephane Mbia drops from midfield to field the right back position while Benoit Assou-Ekotto stays at left back.

Joel Matip comes in to play as the sweeper in front of the defence. Many had expected to see the Shalke man in central defence with Nkoulou but it seems Finke wants to use his passing in midfield. The German-born manager’s midfield stalwarts: Enoh Eyong and Alex Song return. Will they have the creativity Cameroon needs in midfield to link defense and attack?

The mouth watering prospect, though, will be the opportunity to see the future Cameroon attack line. For the first time in a World Cup game since 2002, Samuel Eto’o will not be featuring in the Lions’ starting line up. In his place, the young Vincent Aboubakar has the task of leading the forward line. Flanking the former Cotonsport Garoua striker we’ll have the talented Eric Maxim. Choupo Moting and Benjamin Moukandjo.

No matter the players selected, what’s most important is whether Finke will allow the team to go forward rather than wait for their opponents.

As expected Cameroon went into their game with Mexico looking like a 4-3-3 on paper and setting up in a 4-5-1 formation on the pitch.

Cameroon defending a free-kick versus Mexico. Did their game plan show too much respect for Mexico?

Cameroon defending a free-kick versus Mexico. Did their game plan show too much respect for Mexico?

The starting eleven: Charles Itanje (GK); Cedric Djeugoue – Nicolas N’Koulou – Aurelien Chedjou – Benoit AssouEkotto; Stephane Mbia – Alex Song – Enoh Eyong; Benjamin Moukandjo -Samuel Eto’o – Eric ChoupoMoting.

Their plan involved playing with a high defensive line (catch the Mexicans on offside), allow them keep the ball but pressure and block the spaces. It kind of paid off as it conned the match officials twice (they disallowed to valid goals on the grounds of offside).

As expected the wide forwards/midfielders dropped very deep to keep up with the Mexican wing-backs to prevent them from overwhelming the Cameroon fullbacks. The challenge here is that they were always so deep that they looked like fullbacks. At which point Mexico’s 3-5-2 formation choked Cameroon.

With everyone hemmed in with the Cameroon half, only Samuel Eto’o was left in the forward line where he was scrutinized by the three centre backs at all times. It was therefore hard to break swiftly and when this happened there was no support for the lone striker.

In the second half the Mexicans increased interplay centrally and hit penetrative balls and runs through the centre and in behind Cameroon’s slow centrebacks. That’s how they scored their lone and game winning goal (1-0).

When Cameroon went a goal behind their manager Volker Finke had to make a decision to either:

1. Maintain shape and continue to contain the Mexicans
2. Change tactics and animation ie bring in a more direct forward and ask the team to wrest possession from the Mexicans in the way the Lions did when they went behind to Germany.

He chose option 1. This meant the team did not move into third gear until late in the game when Webo was fielded and Cameroon switched to 4-4-2. It was a little late in my opinion.  There was no punch, little movement while the build up was slow.

With The lions absolutely requiring a positive result versus Croatia to keep their hopes alive, will Finke take a more open option?

The Indomitable Lions. Photo credit: Olivier N'Seke

The Indomitable Lions. Photo credit: Olivier N’Seke

It’s time for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to talk on the pitch. In a few hours they will be facing the El Tri of Mexico. What should fans expect from the current pack of Lions?

Tactics: 4-5-1 or 4-3-3
Head coach Volker Finke has mainly used a 4-3-3 formation since he took over. However, there have been games where the Lions played more as a 4-2-3-1 with a double-pivot in central midfield and, in at least one instance their shape was close to a 4-4-2 diamond.

I expect the Lions to show up as a tight unit in a 4-3-3 when attacking and 4-5-1 once they lose possession of the ball. The latter would be the default posture taken by the team which will be very defensive in outlook.

The central midfield trio will look to charge down on the Mexicans, with a lot of energy to disrupt their movement. When in 4-3-3 mode the forwards will bear down on Mexico’s central defensive trio.

When the ball is lost the wide forwards will drop into midfield to block the flanks and serve as the first line of defense. They will not hesitate to drop very deep if necessary and break with speed once the Mexican attack is contained.

Cameroon played a high defensive line in all of its pre-World Cup warm-up matches. The idea is to keep the opposing attackers closer to the midfield than in the Lions’ danger area. The disadvantage though, is that if the defenders are not tactically disciplined or one member loses concentration, the impact can be devastating. How they manage to switch-on  immediately the game starts in each half; and their  This, concentration at the end of the halves, are points to watch. These have been the team’s weaknesses in the recent past.

As much as Cameroon will depend on counter-attacks, Mexico must also be wary of the Lions’ passing game forged by coach Finke. It is an interesting blend reminiscent of the 1990 generation that reached the quarter-finals. The player profiles and tactics are similar and they may stun Mexico as they did Diego Maradona’s Argentina.

Back to 1990

In 1990, Cameroon often started in a 4-5-1 formation. Emmanuel Kunde sat in front of the back 4. He intercepted attacks but also had the vision to make forward passes. In the current team, that role has been handed to Alex Song, who not only wears the number six jersey like Kunde but also has the ability to play in central defence and in midfield. Should Song be unable to start, Joel Matip would step into the Kunde shoes.

Two other players supported gave the midfield steel and penetration in 1990: Emile Mbouh and Andre Kana Biyick. The former was the grafter – who would stop at nothing to get the ball, with an ability to play an energetic game for 90 -minutes. That role in the current squad is held by Eyong Enoh Takang.  He is the one player who has started and completed every game since Volker Finke took over in May 2013. His is an ungrateful task of fixing the errors of his teammates without looking like the hero. Cameroon’s success depends on him being on song.

The Kana Biyick role will surely be handed to Stephane Mbia. Kana Biyick could play almost anywhere. He was a good centre-back but hated to play in that position. He could play as a box-to-box midfielder in a double pivot but could also feature as a support striker when called upon to do so. Since he got into Cameroon’s senior squad, Stephane Mbia has played as right-back, centre-back, holding midfielder, relay midfielder and support striker.

Down the flanks in 1990, Cameroon had two of its greatest artistes: Louis Paul Mfede (on the left) and Cyrille Makanaky (on the right). Both could also play as traditional number 10s or support striker if given the opportunity.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will be the current team’s Mfede. A great dribbler who can pass well and score goals. He will keep opposing full-backs in their camp. Cameroon’s success against Mexico and Croatia will depend on his form.

Benjamin Moukandjo has dreadlocks like Makanaky and he also has the pace and tenacity of the 1990 hero. As observed against Germany, Moukandjo can defend and storm forward like a speed train. He also misses a lot of goals like Makanaky – who rarely scored for Cameroon.

Cameroon in 1990 started games with a single out and out forward: Omam Biyick. He scored only one goal in that competition but it was an unforgetable goal (against Argentina). Omam, like Samuel Eto’o today, knew how to create openings for other forwards. Many often judged him in relation to the goals he scored (like they do with Eto’o) but it was his creativity that was one of his biggest assets.

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