Souleymanou Hamidou will start as goalkeeper for Cameroon in their clash with the reigning World Champions Italy at the Louis II stadium in Monaco on Wednesday.
The Turkey based keeper has been reportedly preferred to Idriss Carlos Kameni of Espanyol Barcelona who was heavily critised after the Indomitable Lions under-performed at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola last January. Kameni has kept the number 1 spot since 2006, when Souleymanou was relegated to the bench after Cameroon were knocked-out of the Cup of Nations by the Ivory Coast.
Cameroon’s head coach, Paul Le Guen has also found places for Stephane Mbia (of olympic Marseille) as right-back and Sebastien Bassong (of Tottenham) in central defence. Bassong will partner Nkoulou Ndoubena, who is the only member of Cameroon’s defence-line at the Nations Cup to have maintained his position. The left-back position will be held by Benoit Assou-Ekotto who missed the African tournament due to injury.
Contrary to the modifications at the back, the trio of youthful midfielders (Alex Song, Enoh Eyong and Georges Madjeck) who started against Egypt in the Lions’ last outing in January have maintained their spots.
Media reports suggest that Cameroon will maintain their usual 4-3-3 formation which means team captain Samuel Eto’o, Achile Emana and newcomer Dorge Rostand Kouemaha will handle the attack-line.
The game against Italy, is the first in a series of three preparatory games ahead of the World Cup in South Africa next June. The Lions will also take on Slovakia in May and Portugal in early June.
It will be Cameroon’s third encounter against Italy at senior level. Both teams drew 1-1 in the group stages of the World Cup in 1982 (which the Italians eventually won) and the Squadra Azzura trounced the Indomitable Lions 3-0 in a 1998 FIFA World Cup group game. Samuel Eto’o got his first (competitive) senior international cap at the age of 17 when he came on as a substitute in that game played in France.
Wednesday night’s match may also witness a first cap for 18-year-old Joel Matip (FC Shalke 04, Germany) who joined the camp late on Tuesday 2 March. The huge midfielder who has a Cameroonian father and a German mother, missed the Africa Cup of Nations for administrative reasons.
The two home-based players will also start on the reserve bench.
*Here is the list of the expected starting eleven:
Souleymanou Hamidou (GK)
Stephane Mbia(RB) – Nkoulou Ndoubena(CB) – Sebastien Bassong (CB)- Assou Ekotto (LB)
Georges Mandjeck (RM) – Alexandre Song (HM) – Enoh Eyong Tarkang (RM)
Achille Emana (RA) – Eto’o – Rostand Dorge Kouemaha(striker) – Samuel Eto’o (capt)