What can we expect from Javier Clemente and Amara Traore when the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon clash with Senegal’s Lions of the Teranga on Saturday in Yaounde? Both managers now know their opponents well after the teams met in Dakar last March.
Clemente, had opted for a cautious (almost defensive) approach which targeted a draw (in what often seemed as a 4-5-1) while Traore had set his squad for whole-sale attack with 4 strikers in a 4-2-4 system. The Senegalese won (1-0) through a 92nd minute goal by West Ham striker – Demba Ba.
When I watched the Senegalese team train in Dakar this week, Traore was testing three formations: the 4-2-4 he used in March, a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 (with insistence on the latter two which added extra men in the midfield).
Several Senegalese coaches had noted after the 26 March game that Cameroon – playing with 3 midfielders – had over-run the Teranga Lions two men – Nguiram Ndaw and Mohammed Diame. The Senegalese often ended in 3 v 2 (or even 5 v 2 when Samuel Eto’o and Henri Bedimo dropped deep).
What looked like the probable starting team now has Ndiaye Deme Ndiaye and Dame Ndoye on the flanks instead of Mame Birame Diouf and Papis Cisse as was in the first leg. Captain Mamadou Niang and Lille’s Moussa Sow (who finished top scorer in France with 25 goals) would play as the strikers.
Ndoye came on as a substitute (at the 57th minute) in the first-leg and helped to balance the Senegalese game. The striker who finished as top scorer in Denmark with 23 goals this season was able to transform himself into a winger – speeding down flanks.
When they switched to 4-3-3, Niang was on the left, Sow in the centre and Ndoye on the right. The tough decision here is whether Traore could afford to drop Papiss Demba Cisse to the bench. Papiss finished second highest scorer in the German Bundesliga and is among the most prolific forwards for his country.
Spain based Pape Couli Diop (selected for the first time) was used in a midfield trio alongside Guirane Ndaw and Mohammed Diame when the coach practised 4-3-3. But when the team lined-up as a 4-4-2 (4-2-4 in attack mode) the preferred midfield duo was Wigan-based Diame and Remi Gomis.
Regardless of the formation, Traore and his staff insisted on resitance and running without the ball. They assumed that Cameroon would want to keep the ball in their desperation to score (and win). The Senegalese practiced short 15-minute sessions where they hadn’t the ball and had to continue running, and then burst into quick counter-attacks once they regained ball possession. The coaches insisted on speed and precision both in their passing as well as their movement.
The slight concern in this tight unit might be the defence that would need to gel quickly before the game. Two of the cogs from the Dakar game are absent: Pape Dhiakite (centre-back) and Omar Daf (left-back).
While many expected Marseille’s Souleymane Diawara to replace the suspended Diakhite, the coaches seem to prefer Lamine Sane, who played as right-back last time. Serigne Modou Kara Thioune looked likely to play as right-back while Cheikh Mbengue was tipped to start on the left.
But the Toulouse-based Mbengue who only recently chose to represent Senegal instead of France might miss the game. BBC Sport reported that football’s World Governing body (Fifa) says Senegal’s football federation has yet to apply for the players to change nationality .
Whatever choices Traore makes – the men that would line-up to protect the shaky goalkeeper (Calamity) Khadim Ndiaye would be different.
The Indomitable Lions must test the defenders’ lack of game-time together. Swift through balls on the ground and pace (from the attackers) to unsettle the huge central defenders, would be essential. Shooting from range would also be useful against Khadim -who has problems catching balls firmly. Eto’o or Achille Webo (preferably Choupo-Moting) should be prowling to punish these errors.