A few days after qualifying for this season’s quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League with their clubs, Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham, England) and Joel Matip (Shalke 04, Germany) have been left out of Cameroon’s 23-man squad to face Senegal in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Dakar on 26 March.

Both of them have been  shining lights in the past three months with regular starting berths for their clubs and in key roles that are relevant for the Lions (i.e left full-back and centre midfield).

cameroon versus japan

Matip (N°21) and Assou-Ekotto (N°2) line-up for Cameroon v Japan

Assou-Ekotto, one of Cameroon’s more serious players,  is the first-choice left-back for Spurs who lie fifth in the English premier league. His displays have won the hearts of many fans who used to see him as a weak link for the north London team. His qualities in taking set-pieces (corners and free-kicks) shall also be missed.

Speculation is rife in the Cameroon media that relations are not at their best between Assou-Ekotto, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador who has regularly spoken of his love for the Indomitable Lions’ shirt (which he preferred to France), and Javier Clemente, the Spanish born head coach of  the west-central African nation.

Reports suggest that Clemente is unhappy that Assou-Ekotto did not join the squad in Macedonia last month after he was called up as a late replacement for some players who had failed to turn up.

Whether this is true or not, it is evident that, Assou-Ekotto is at the moment Cameroon’s  best (and most match- fit) left full-back. Gaetan Bong has (admittedly) been good with Valencienne in the French Ligue 1 this season but he has been out of action for nearly a month due to injury, while Henri Bedimo of RC Lens in France is more often a substitute leftwinger (the role he has been playing for Cameroon as well).

Curiously, Clemente and his assistant Omam Biyick didn’t consider  George Elokobi of Wolverhampton Wanderers who has been as consistent as Assou-Ekotto in the English Premier League, even if he is not as technically gifted as the Spurs man.

Of course, no player is indispensable and it is obvious that football managers who work on a daily basis with these players know better than spectators who get to see them only on matchday. Should Cameroon win against Senegal, Clemente would feel chuffed amidst the barrage of criticism that has followed his team selection.

Yet, it seems hard for fans to construe  Joel Matip’s absence  given his recent run of form at Shalke. He has looked the most likely replacement for Alex Song of Arsenal who has been sidelined since the World Cup.

Clemente and  Omam Biyick however included Andre Ndame Ndame (Cotonsport FC), Joseph Momasso (Astres FC) and Patrick Abouna Ndzana (Astres) from Cameroon’s local league. They were  among the local-based players who represented Cameroon at the just ended Africa Nations Championships in Sudan.

The bulk of the squad (see below) is drawn from players who appeared for Cameroon in a friendly against Macedonia last month, including Mbuta Andongcho who scored the winner (1-0).

Clemente had promised to maintain these players, claiming they are superior to the crop he had used in the games against Mauritius (3-1 for Cameroon) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (1-1) last year.

Meanwhile Senegal released its squad of 24 last week.

With both squads now available, Gef’s Football Club will offer a count-down to the game including tactical previews and tit-bits from Senegal. Watch this space.

Cameroon Squad to face Senegal (as published on Fecafootonline)

1. Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, Nantes FC – France
2. Idriss Carlos Kameni, RCD Espanyol – Espagne
3. Charles Itandje, Atromitos FC – Greece
4. Sebastien Bassong, Tottenham Hotspurs – Angleterre
5. Gaetan Bong, FC Valenciennes – France
6. Benoit Angbwa, FC Anji Makhatch – Russie
7. Patrick Abouna Ndzana, Les Astres FC – Cameroun
8. Nicolas Nkoulou, AS Monaco – France
9. Henri Bedimo, RC Lens – France
10. Stephane Mbia, Olympique Marseille – France
11. Matthew Mbuta Andongcho, Chrystal Palace -USA
12. Eyong Takang Enoh, AFC Ajax Amsterdam – Pays Bas
13. Landry Nguemo, AS Nancy – France
14. Andre Ndame Ndame, Coton Sport FC – Cameroun
15. Joseph Momasso, Les Astres FC – Cameroun
16. Aurelien Chedjou, Lille OSC – France
17. Georges Mandjeck, Stade Rennais FC – France
18. Benjamin Moukandjo, AS Monaco – France
19. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Hamburg SV – Allemagne
20. Somen A Tchoyi, West Bromwich Albion FC – Angleterre
21. Achille Webo, RCD Mallorca – Espagne
22. Samuel Eto’o, Inter Milan – Italie
23. Vincent Aboubakar, FC Valenciennes – France