Take a look at Adebayor’s goal against Cameroon (below) in the opening game of the third round of qualifiers to South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup. What was Bikey thinking? He was busy playing at tug-a-jersey with the Togolese striker or what? This has raised the debate about the Indomitable Lions’ central defence…
Cameroon has had a history of athletic but magnificent central defence pairings. The duets are often made of one person who out-muscles the opponents by his sheer physical built and his teeth-gnashing defending and another who has an extra-ordinary sense of positioning, ability to read play and aptitude to serve as launch-pad for long range attacks. Do you remember Aoudou Ibrahim and Djeya (1982-84); Aoudou and Emmanuel Kundé (1985-1986); Kundé and Benjamin Massing (1987-1992)? Ndip Akem and Jules Onana alternated with the latter duo (1990 – 1993) .
Then came the Rigobert Song and Raymond Kalla two-some which has been on and off between 1994 and 2006. It flourished from World Cup 1998 winning two Africa Cups and began dislocating after the 2002 World Cup. In the final sprint for a place in Germany 2006, head coach Arthur Jorge decided to re-constitute the winning pair. But a dashing move by Emmanuel Adebayor at the African Cup of Nations in 2006 sent Kalla crashing on the floor with a torn muscle. He was replaced by Stephane Bikey and has never returned to the team.
When the Stephane Bikey/Rigobert Song pair took Cameroon to the final of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana last year, it looked like Bikey would finally settle the problem of who shall play alongside Song. Yet, Cameroon conceded seven (7) goals in the process most often due to their lack of speed. Both seem to play on a high tempo with Bikey losing his nerves to the point of being sent-off against Ghana in the semi-final. One has the impression of watching two buldozzers whereas succesful pairings need only one of such.
Neither Metomo with whom Song reached the final of the Confederations Cup in 2003, nor Armand Deumi, Perrier Doumbe (of Celtic), Bill Chiato and Eric Matoukou have settled in a partnership with Cameroon’s captain for the past 10 years. Otto Pfister even attempted to playing the dreadlocked Lion alongside his Arsenal-based nephew – Alexandre Song. It was good story and nothing more.
One thing we surely need at the back now is someone who has good vision, defensive skill and calm of a Kundé in addition to a huge experience of international football. Such a person that could pair with Song in his (current) embbing days but have the pedigree to chaperon youngsters like Nicolas Nkoulou (Monaco), Aurelien Chedjou (Lille), Stephane Mbia (Rennes) Stephane Bikey (Reading) or even Alex Song (Arsenal) who at varying periods have held roles in central defence for club and country.
Simply put, I would propose that Geremi Njitap be switched to central defence. He encapsulates the points mentioned above. Moreover the offensive demands of the right-back position are beating him these days. He barely surged forward against Togo in contrast to the young and agile Benoît Assou-Ekotto on the left. He has been used in that position by Dutchman Arie Haan who felt his intelligience warranted him to play there as a sort of Franz Beckenbauer. Jules Nyongha also made faints attempt play him in the centre of defence but it was usually in the absence of Song. Isn’t it the way to go?