Cameroon defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 in Yaounde to sneak into the final round of qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa.
The Indomitable Lions were held on their own turf for 81 minutes by a resilient Guinea Bissau side until forward Benjamin Moukandjo beat goalkeeper Jonas Mendes following a cross from the left flank by substitute Yannick Ndjeng.
“They played with eight players in the defence and it was difficult for us,” said Martin Ndtoungou Mpile, Cameroon’s deputy head coach. “But at the end we won,” Ndtoungou added in a post-match interview with Cameroon’s State-run TV (CRTV).
While the coaches and the players were visibly satisfied with the result, pundits on TV and Cameroonians reacting on internet forums have expressed disgust at the quality of play served by the Lions. The team had the ball possession and made endless passes in midfield and outside the Guinea Bissau penalty area but lacked penetration.
The final ball was poor and the finishing from some of the players was near abysmal. The few fans who had turned up to watch the Lions at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium were so disgusted with some of the misses that they spent their time chanting the name of “Eto’o,” the suspended skipper of the national team.
Head coach Denis Lavagne would surely point to the fact that Cameroon played higher up the field than in any other game under his tenure but critics would argue that this was against a weak Bissau team that had come to defend and left the ball to the Lions (who visibly didn’t know what to do with it).
Pundits remarked that the team still couldn’t find a working link between midfield and attack with Alexandre Song, who had to play that role, missing in action for much of the game. Some of his best through balls were made when he was playing from a deeper position than that of the anchor behind the strikers.
Henri Bedimo, the left-back made a number pf overlapping runs and some crosses in what seemed the only other means of outwitting the Bissau side. Georges Mandjeck, the midfielder who plays as right full-back under Lavagne, made a few forward runs as well but nothing really happened until the coach substituted the big centre-forward, Leonard Kweuke.
Ndjeng, who replaced Kweuke, was more mobile – dropping deep and making runs across the area – to drag the opposing defenders out of position. He was assisted in this by Vincent Aboubakar who (controversially) replaced Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, the team’s current goal-poacher. Aboubakar dribbled and took the game into the opposing area but his finishing was sub-standard mainly due to his over-exuberance.
There was relief for the Lions when Ndjeng centred from the left for Moukandjo to score after what seemed on television like the ball had touched the Nancy striker’s hand.
Cameroon go through on a 2-0 aggregate since they had also defeated Guinea Bissau 1-0 in the away leg game played in Bissau last February.
It was Lavagne’s third 1-0 victory in four competitive outings as Cameroon coach. He has only lost one game (2-1 to Libya) since taking over in October/November 2011. But the near empty stands were very telling about what Cameroonian fans think of their national squad these days.
NB: Cameroon’s starting line-up [playing 4-3-3].
GK: Idriss Kameni
RB: Georges Mandjeck; LB: Henri Bedimo; CB: Nicolas Nkoulou (capt.) and Aurelien Chedjou
Midfielders: Stephane Mbia, Alex Song, Landry Ngeumo
RF: Choupo-Moting; CF: Leonard Kweuke; LF: Benjamin Moukandjo
-Yannick Ndjeng in for Kweuke
-Vincent Aboubakar in for Choupo
-William Overtoom in for Moukandjo.