Alexandre Song will probably start the World Cup as a substitute against Japan and Souleymanou Hamidou will be Cameroon’s first choice goalkeeper, the team’s head coach, Paul Le Guen, said on Saturday.
“I have to make choices and I try to pick the most competitive team possible,” Le Guen told a news conference at the Indomitable Lions’ base in Durban, South Africa.
Le Guen’s decision to drop Alex Song may come as a surprise to many international observers (who consider the Arsenal player as one of Cameroon’s biggest assets) but Song has not been performant with the Lions during the preparation matches.
“Alexandre did not finish the season with Arsenal, I think his last match with his club was on April 14. He was injured . He did not participate in the final month of competition and he has not trained too. He lacks rhythm and match fitness, ” Le Guen told a news conference in Yaounde before the team travelled to South Africa.
“He (Alex Song) has to show me that he is back to his best form. There is no blank cheque for one player…Alex must demonstrate a return to form,” the coach had said.
The holding midfielder role had become a weak link in the team as Alex Song kept the ball too much and constantly left his position to make forays in the attack, leaving his back four without cover. A good number of goals conceded by the Lions during their test matches were due to this lack of coordination and balance between the midfield and defence, explained here.
As a result, the French-born manager played Nicolas Nkoulou instead of Alex Song in the holding midfielder role during Cameroon’s final friendly against Serbia.
Nkoulou impressed in this role which he also plays for his club (Monaco) in the French Ligue 1 but it is not clear if he would be maintained in the position or Joel Matip (Shalke, Germany) would be played there.
Should Nkoulou be confirmed in the holding midfield position, Stephane Mbia and Sebastien Bassong will play as centre-backs.
Le Guen also said he would be handing a starting place to the Celtic Glasgow midfielder Landry Nguemo who also played well against Serbia.
Goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou who was between the sticks in three of Cameroon’s five test matches has been confirmed as the first choice keeper ahead of Espanyol Barcelona’s Idriss Carlos Kameni.
Souleymanou, who is the oldest player (36) in the squad, will be playing at the World Cup for the first time although he was selected in the national team in 1998. He was the third keeper in the Cameroon team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000.
He was not called up again until 2004 in a friendly against Bulgaria. He later became the first choice keeper under Arthur Jorge during the last segment of qualifiers to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and during the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.