Cameroon’s head coach, Paul Le Guen, will soon (11 May?) announce the list of 28-30 players that will be part of his preliminary World Cup camp to start on 20 May 2010 in Austria. After two test matches against Georgia in Linz on 25 May and Slovakia in Klangenfurt on 29 May, he will name the final squad of 23 players to travel to South Africa for the tournament.
From the way he has been operating, it is probable that the shortlist will include many young players – some who have never been called up – and others with dual citizenships. He may sprinkle one or two local players for good measure.
Le Guen favours a 4-3-3 formation but has struggled to find tactical balance with the set of players at his disposal. There have been calls by Cameronian coaches, pundits and journalists for the formation to be dropped. I think it is unlikely that he will change now. He has been busy in the quest for the missing pieces of his puzzle by observing players in Europe and organizing a camp in Yaounde for local talent.
Here is my list of 29 players based on statements made by Le Guen during interviews, the players he has been supervising, the general squad balance and the requirements for a successful 4-3-3 (4-5-1 when defending). You are free to comment and provide your own list.
Goalkeepers: Idriss Kameni, Souleymanou Hamidou and Ndy Assembe.
Kameni and Souleymanou are surely going to be part of the World Cup squad. They are the countries most experienced keepers and play regularly for their clubs. The key decision is who will be first-choice on the squad sheets. Although Ndy Assembe who was third goalkeeper at the Africa Cup of Nations has not played since he returned from that competition in January, I think he will be kept for group balance.
Stephane Mbia (Maresille, France), Nicolas Nkoulou (Monaco, France), Sebastien Bassong (Tottenham Hotspur, England), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur), Nsame Bedimo (Lens, France).
Comment: The above mentioned players should be on the plane to South Africa by virtue of their club output this season and the general balance of the team. With Mbia for instance, Le Guen would solve the lingering problem at right-back but also have a spare central defender/midfielder. Bedimo and Assou-Ekotto seem to be miles ahead of any competition at left-back. The other defenders (in my opinion) would come from:
Aurelien Chedjou (Lille, France), Geremi Njitap (Ankaragucu, Turkey), Rigobert Song (Trabonzpor, Turkey), Gaetan Bong (Valencienne, France), Abouna Ndzana (Astres, Cameroon), Marvin Job Matip (Karlsruher SC).
Midfielders: Alexander Song (Arsenal, England), Enow Eyong Tarkang (Ajax, Holland), Georges Mandjeck (Kaiserslautern, Germany), Joel Matip (Shalke 04, Germany), Jean Makoun (Lyon, France), Landry Nguemo (Glasgow Celtic, Scotland), Achille Emana (Betis Sevilla, Spain), Marcel Ndjeng (Augusburg, Germany)
Comment: This is the area where Cameroon has the most active players albeit ¾ of them are holding midfielders or destroyers for their clubs. This means there is a dearth in creative people who can dictate play going forward – especially within a 4-3-3 – in the mould of Xavi Hernandes and Andres Iniesta for FC Barcelona or Wesley Sneijder of Inter Milan. Only Emana, Ndjeng and to an extent Eyong come close.
Attackers: Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan, Italy), Idrissou Mohammadou (Frieburg, Germany), Somen Achoyi (Austria), Dorge Kouemaha (FC Bruges,Belgium) Achille Webo (Majorca, Spain), Herve Choupo-Moting (Nurenberg, Germany), Aboubacar Vincent (Cotonsport, Cameroon), Moukandjo Bille (Nimes, France).
Comment: Samuel Eto’o already has his place and hotel room booked for the first World Cup on African soil. But who will be among his attacking team-mates for the Indomitable Lions? There are 8 attackers on my preliminary list. They will be trimmed to 5 or 6 in the final 23. Note that Idrissou and Somen possess the ability to feature as forwards or wide-midfielders. I think those two will be in South Africa.
Feeling or Who Else?
Josep Guardiola said he decided to oust a 30-goal-a-season striker like Samuel Eto’o because of “feeling”. Some Indomitable Lions have their World Cup fate hanging on Le Guen’s “feeling”.
If the “feeling” is right Joselyn Mayebi may stake a claim to Ndy Assembe’s spot, George Elokobi (Wolverhampton, England) may be picked ahead of Gaetan Bong (Valencienne, France), Stephane Bikey (Burnley, England) will appear on the list instead of Marvin Matip (Germany) who can play as a central defender, central midfielder and right-back just like Bikey.
Should he “feel” like having more experience than youth – he could add Modeste Mbami (Almeria, Spain) , Daniel Ngom Kome (Tenerife) and pick Meyong Ze (Sporting Braga, Portugal) instead of Aboubacar Vincent or Choupo Moting. Frank Songo’o (who spent more time on the reserve bench than on the pitch in Spain) may also be selected if the coach “feels” he is the only recognized creative player who can hold sway left or right of a front three or even as playmaker.
Let’s see how close our selections are to Paul Le Guen’s when it is named on Monday or Tuesday.