On 31 December 2009 all teams qualified for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations are expected to have submitted the list of their 23 players for the tournament. Between now and then there is no available FIFA period which will permit a team like the Indomitable Lions – exclusively made up of European based professionals – to train. Is it reasonable then to think that the coach would make significant changes to the current squad? Not quite.
Paul Le Guen already has a nucleus around which he has built his play style and may not want to risk up-setting the team dynamics in a period when he would have limited practice time.
Reviewing the match sheets of his six games in-charge, especially the Africa Cup of Nations/World Cup qualification matches, it is apparent that he has a core of 14 players who already have their tickets and seats for the flight to Lubango in Angola.
I am talking about the men he consistently picked in his starting 11 or repeatedly fielded as replacements in the four competitive games against Gabon (twice), Togo and Morocco. They are: Carlos Kameni, Geremi Njitap, Nicolas Nkoulou, Rigobert Song, Assou-Ekotto, Nguemo Landry, Jean Makoun, Achille Emana, Alex Song, Achille Webo, Samuel Eto’o, Stephane Mbia, Enow Eyong, and Somen A Tchoyi.
These are the men who would often feature in the starting line-up at the African Nations Cup, except there is a major challenge from the second group of Paul Le Guen’s preferred Lions. These are the people who played a few minutes or at most one of the qualification games. They are Henri Bedimo Nsame, Sebastien Bassong, Alo’o Efoulou, Aurelien Tchedjou, and Daniel Ngom Kome.
Simple arithmetic will show that these two sets of players make a total of 19 – allowing for just four more Lions to be included for a complete squad of 23.
A few vacancies
A quick look at the 19 Lions above, and you notice there is only one goalkeeper – Paul Le Guen needs three. That means Souleymanou Hamidou who was called-up for all six games in Le Guen’s tenure but only played in the friendly against Angola (0-0) should be number 20 on the plane, except there is an earthquake.
This leaves us with three vacancies.
Now, do you remember how many new players Le Guen said could be included in the squad? I think he spoke of “2 or 3 players.” Bang!
Paul Le Guen is therefore advertising for the following positions: 1 goalkeeper, 1 defender (right-back or centre-back), and 1 striker.
What this means is that Andre Bikey, Albert Meyong Ze and Gilles Binya, who were often part of Le Guen’s lists of 22 but spent most of their time on the stands watching their colleagues do battle, may not be part of the mission to Angola.
Binya wasn’t even called up for the final game in Morocco and Bikey was in the stands. Le Guen preferred the young Georges Mandjeck on the bench, although it is not clear if he can cope as a stand-in right back. He didn’t really impress when he played in that position against Angola. He kept forgetting his defensive duties. Let’s say, he’s young and on a learning curve.
But do you think Mandjeck or the much vaunted Nounkeu (Toulouse, France) is a better bet than Bikey, who already has experience at centre-back, right-back and now central midfield? Hmmm…
Surely no N’gog and Apoula
Albert Meyong Ze should be a worried man with all the talk about Cameroon trying to woo Liverpool’s young striker, David N’gog, who has a Cameroonian parent. Such a move is proof that one of the current strikers is surplus to requirement and Meyong Ze fits the bill.
But, I think N’gog prefers to represent France like his cousin – Jean Alain Boumsong – who played the final of the World Cup in 2006.
I could be wrong.
In any case, if he were to play for Cameroon, it would be at the World Cup because we are running out of time to undertake the procedure for change of FIFA nationality to include his name on the Nations Cup list.
We should thus be expecting another striker – but who will it be?
And who will be the third choice keeper? Ndy Assembe – the goalkeeper of Valencienne (France) was on Le Guen’s waiting list for the Morocco game. That is quite telling.
Then there is this rumour about the current PSG keeper Edel Apoula who had been drafted by Otto Pfister at one point. Sincerely, Apoula cannot feature for Cameroon because he has played two senior national team matches for Armenia. The romantic stories written about him and his tribulations will not change the situation. Could that allow Joselin Mayebi to sneak-in? The Youngman was called up in the days of Pfister and was the back-up keeper of the under-23 Lions in the Beijing Olympics.
We can take the next year dreaming up names of potential players to join the camp but the final word is Paul Le Guen’s. Evidently, whoever succeeds in winning these last 3 positions would probably not be a member of the starting eleven, except the player is of extremely exceptional class!
Did you say squad revolution at the African Cup of Nations…?