Cameroon finished top of their Africa Youth Championship group with seven points after scoring a late goal to draw 1-1 with Ghana on Sunday.

Midfielder Emmanuel Ewangue Mbongo headed home for the junior Indomitable Lions  after the Ghanaian goalkeeper completely flapped his outing to stop an Edgar Salli corner in the dying seconds of the game (92nd minute).

On Thursday Cameroon will play against Egypt (second in pool A), while the Flying Eagles of Nigeria who finished second in Cameroon’s pool B (with six points) will clash with the Mali’s young Eagles (who topped pool A). These four teams will represent Africa in July’s FIFA Youth Championships (U-20 World Cup) in Columbia.

What are the lessons Cameroon may have learned from the game against Ghana?

Lesson 1: Cameroon’s benchwarmers can stop Ghana…

The Ghanaians, who are the reigning Africa U-20 Champions, scored in the 21st minute of play but the draw means they finish with only 2 points, cannot make it to the semi-finals and will not defend their World Championship crown.

The fact that the Ghanaians were unable to beat what was essentially a second-string Cameroon team speaks volumes about Ghana’s  below average performance at this tournament.

Cameroon’s head coach, Martin Ndtoungou Mpile,  had made whole-sale changes in order to rest some of the key players to who had qualified the squad to the semi-finals (and by the same token the World Cup) by beating the Gambia and Nigeria on an identical 1-0 scoreline.

Eric Ngana replaced Efala Ngonguep as the goalkeeper while Yann Songo’o, Mbongo, Armand Ela Ken and Alain Bruno Bati started for the first time in the midfield. Christian Toko Edimo and Joel Tageu who had been bit-part players in the other games had an opportunity to prove their worth up-front. At the defence, Ghislain Mvom who had played against the Gambia and Nigeria as a centre-back started at a right-back while Vincent Bikala slotted in the centre of defence to partner Yaya Banana.

Lesson 2: But Cameroon’s benchwarmers are not great…

Honestly, the changes didn’t click. The team seemed out of its depth particularly in the first-half where the Ghanaians ran the show. Cameroon’s passing was really poor between and there was no coordination between the various parts. This was exemplified by repeated confusion between the centre-backs Yaya Banana and Bikala and their rather shaky goalkeeper.

Cameroon stepped-up their game once Ndtoungou Mpile decided to substitute Alain Bati bringing on Edgar Salli at the start of the second-half. Yet, the passing at midfield only improved when the coach brought in Nyantchou of Panthere Bangante and Jacques Haman of Cotonsport Garoua.

From the 70th minute Cameroon piled pressure on the Ghanaians who scarcely crossed their half of the field and resorted to fouls. It seemed the arrival of the regular starters and news of Nigeria’s curtain-raiser in their game against the Gambia had sparked them into action.

Seeing that Cameroon only clicked when Salli, Haman and Nyantchou came on, it is clear that most of the players who were tested on Sunday will return to their bench-warming positions if the Lions have to make any impact in the semi-finals next week (not to mention the World Cup in July).

Lesson 3: Cameroon still has to work on scoring goals

The junior Lions created more chances towards the end of the encounter but as in the previous games their finishing continued to be wasteful.  The coaches would have to work on precision and target shooting before the next games.

The centre-forward Tageu was a real let-down. His midfielders served him with several through-balls but he was unable to make contact or proper use, often looking tired and heavy. Haman troubled the Ghanaian defence when he came on but it wasn’t uncommon to see him blazing wide ever-so-often.

Fortunately, the coaches had tweaked the formation from 4-4-2 to a 4-1-2-3 to ensure that Cameroon pressed high-up the pitch and pushed the Ghanaians to commit several fouls and concede about half a dozen corner-kicks.

Cameroon scored from one of these corner-kicks. It is the second Cameroonian goal to come from a set-piece. The Lions have scored only three (3) goals so far!!! It may not be worrying (for now) because of the sturdy defence and midfield but something needs to be done (for the future) about scoring goals.