The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon lost 1-2 to Paraguay in a pre-World Cup friendly on Thursday. Here are few things they may have learned from the game.
- Possession is Useless Without Penetration and Goals : Cameroon dominated possession in this game. The first half ended with the Lions having 65 percent of the ball. It was good to see the team work the ball from the back to the front, prioritising short passes instead of long hopeful balls to the front. For all of their possession, the Lions created few scoring chances. The team lacked penetration. The build-up was slow, it allowed the Paraguayans to settle in a very defensive 4-4-2 which was tough to break down. Cameroon lacked creativity to turn the possession to scoring chances. Ball possession is useless without pace, creativity, penetration and goals. Paraguay did not keep the ball for long periods but when they got it, they hit the Lions through swift counter-attacking raids. They looked like scoring each time they got forward. The Lions must learn to translate domination into goal-scoring success.
Choupo-Moting Should be a Starter in Brazil: Football is a team sport but individual talent never hides. The young Mainz forward, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, is clearly the most gifted player in the Cameroon squad after Samuel Eto’o. He’s got a good first touch, dribbles with elegance, has an eye for a defence splitting pass and…he can score. In the 4-3-3 formation preferred by Cameroon’s head coach – Choupo-Moting can play as a wide forward (left or right) or as the main striker. He is even better as the withdrawn forward behind the main striker in a 4-2-3-1. He changed the game when coach Volker Finke brought him on as a substitute. His determination earned him a goal (he also scored in Cameroon’s 2-0 win over Macedonia). He could have scored a brace versus Paraguay – if only Mohammadou Idrissou had not decided to take (then miss) the penalty Cameroon earned in the final minutes of the match.
- Idrissou Shouldn’t be in this Squad: No, it’s not about the missed penalty. Really, it isn’t. Anybody can miss a penalty. It is about the whole 90 minutes in which Idrissou contrived to show the world that he shouldn’t be part of this 28-man squad. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a 23-man squad to the World Cup. I know there are qualities that coaches see in players that fans can’t perceive, but really not this time. When he was younger and could run up and down the left flank – supporting the defence and injecting pace – even I used to attempt explanations about his role in the team. That pace has left him. He hasn’t got great technique (never did) and he absolutely does nothing as a striker when playing for Cameroon. Volker Finke has to drop him.
- Who Else Earned a Place in Finke’s ‘to drop list’?: If the head coach had only that game against Paraguay to make a decision on his 23-man squad, then Raoul-Cedric Loe should be packing his bags to catch the next flight home. He looked edgy, rash, too quick to tackle and often making the wrong pass. On the positive side, though, he dropped very nicely into a centre-back position to cover Matip or Nkoulou when they surged forward. He is young and has time to learn the ropes of his defensive midfield trade. Unfortunately, there are just too many players ahead of him in the pecking order for that role.
- Can Salli Sneak into the 23 for Brazil?: In the first 45-minutes of the game, Edgar Salli looked out of his depth. He had the responsibility of providing a creative spark to a rather defensive midfield formation. It didn’t quite happen in that first half and he was looking like one of those to fall into Finke’s ‘to drop list’. Things changed in the second segment of the game. The boy came alive. He dribbled and took on opponents with confidence. He looked like the player who was the star performer in Cameroon’s under-20 squad that lost in the final of the African Cup in 2011. At the end of the game against Paraguay, Finke said he liked what he had seen from Salli. Is that enough to take the boy to Brazil?