The Lions of Cameroon have packed-out of the World Cup in South Africa after 3 defeats in a row. They are the only African team at “Africa’s World Cup” that was not able to record a single point. Their 1-2 defeat to Holland in the last group game confirmed their inability to beat a European team in a competitive match since a 2-1 victory over Rumania in June 1990. Their only victory at a World Cup since 1990 was against Saudi Arabia in 2002 (see video below).
And did you realise that …
- By scoring his country’s lone goal against Holland, Samuel Eto’o has been involved in all of Cameroon’s World Cup goals in 8 years. He made the assist for Patrick Mboma to score Cameroon’s goal in the 1-1 tie with Ireland in 2002 and scored the winner in the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in that same tournament. He then scored for the Lions in the 2-1 defeats to Denmark and Holland in 2010. Simply put, without Eto’o Cameroon would have zero (0) goals in six World Cup games…
- Aurelien Chedjou is a good midfielder and not the average central defender or laughable right full-back that his coaches at club level and the national team want him to be. He was probably the best Cameroonian on the field in Cape Town on Thursday. He recuperated the ball with punch, without useless fouls and always sought to take the game forward with short, carefully weighted passes. Though his long distance shots were not good, he clearly made everyone forget that Arsenal’s Alex Song was not on the pitch.
- Chedjou, Stephane Mbia, Alex Song and Georges Mandjeck who were all part of World Cup squad, made up the midfield of the under 23 squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in 2008. Imagine those four in midfield at the same time…Add Maxim Choupo-Moting who shone in the second half of the Holland game (but was surprisingly withdrawn in favour of Idrissou) and the likes of Vincent Aboubakar, Joel Matip, Eyong Enoh, Gaetan Bong, Sebastien Bassong and Nicolas Nkoulou into the mix and one has a good foundation for Cameroon to build a strong squad in future.
- Cameroon’s future could be bright as seen in the glimpses of brilliant play against Holland, with short-passes, technique and movement that Patrick Mboma (now a TV pundit) compared it to football played by FC Barcelona. Mboma, however, said on French TV channel Canal+ that it takes time to build a team to successfully play in that manner especially when it is not their traditional style of play. Clearly, Cameroon cannot succeed with short-term, quick-fix coaches and management. Maybe Le Guen could have succeeded if this was a long-term project not hinged on immediate success for socio-political reasons. Are Cameroonians (fans and politicians) ready for patient, long-haul development that might involve the absence of trophies? Do the football officials have such vision?
- Rigobert Song became the first African to appear at four FIFA World Cup tournaments when he came on as a late substitute versus Holland. But what image shall remain in our minds? A charismatic captain who fought to the last for his country? That of a defender who took 2 red cards in successive World Cup tournaments? Or is it that of a man struggling for pace against Arjen Robben in the action that led to the 2nd goal for the Dutch side? Le Guen showed kindness by giving him a chance to play but the Frenchman could have proceeded otherwise…Maybe he should have withdrawn Makoun instead of Nkoulou, and pushed Mbia to midfield. This would have left Rigobert Song at centre-back with Nkoulou who is used to covering the old Lion’s lack of pace. Well, that’s the past…
- The future (at centre-back) is in the hands of Bassong and Nkoulou and it is surprising that the coach did not stick to this duo. There were many lapses in the Mbia/Nkoulou and Mbia/Rigobert Song centre-back partnerships against Holland. The Lions were lucky that the referee didn’t give a penalty against them after Mbia clearly fouled a Dutch player towards the end of the game. He has the fighting spirit but Bassong has the positional sense of a good centre-back. All the Tottenham Hotspur man needs is confidence from managers and the public as well as time for his duo with Nkoulou to gel.
- If the candidates to replace Rigobert Song are many, it seems harder to find a replacement for Geremi Njitap on the right flank (both offensively and defensively). Once he came on as a substitute against Japan, the pre-tournament view that Cameroon’s weakest link was the right-flank was turned around. The weak link became the left-flank which was the entry point for all the goals conceded by the team.
- Cameroon versus Holland was Paul Le Guen’s last game in-charge of Cameroon and he stayed true to his tradition of chopping and changing players. There were 5 players who did not start the game against Denmark. Le Guen used nearly his whole 23 man-squad in 3 matches. Only the injured Georges Mandjeck did not have the opportunity to taste the World Cup among the outfield players. Similarly, all 20 outfield players appeared for Cameroon under Le Guen at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. There was at least one different player in all 20 matches he managed from August 2009 to June 2010 (never repeating the same sqaud). In 2010 alone, he had 10 different centre-back partnerships in 13 games – Cameroon conceded 22 goals in the process.
- Goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou was beaten 5 times in this competition. This simply maintained a cameroon tradition of letting-in 5 goals in the group stages of the World Cup which they only failed to achieve in 1982 (1 goal) and 2002 (4 goals). In 1990 they created history by being the first team with a negative goal difference (-2) to top its pool and qualify for the second round. They had been beaten 4-0 by the USSR and they won 2-1 over Rumania. In 1994, they conceded 11 (eleven) goals in 3 matches: a 2-2 draw with Sweden; 0-3 defeat to Brazil; and 1-6 thrashing in the hands of Russia. In 1998, they were beaten 3-0 by Italy and obtained two 1-1 draws with Austria and Chile.
- In the first World Cup hosted by an African country, Cameroon, the continent’s highest ranked team at the start of the tournament, were only better than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) that conceded 12 goals and scored only 1 in 3 games.