Category: CAN 2012


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).

senegal team

Senegal line-up against cameroon on 26 March in Dakar

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.

DEFENSIVE WORRIES

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.

Click here for Part 2 that focuses on Cameroon

Advertisements

 

Cameroon starting eleven against Senegal, Dakar 26 March 2011

Cameroon’s national football team did not play an international friendly this 29 March. That’s a shame. Playing against Gabon, for instance, would have been an opportunity to consolidate the good and tweak the bad aspects noticed in the game against Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. Here’s a tactical analysis of that Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

 

After a nervy start – during which they had to come to grips with Senegal’s 4-2-4 system – Cameroon basically seized control of the midfield where they outnumbered their host by playing a (form of) 4-1-3-2 formation. The ball retention by Cameroon’s midfield was very good for 35 of the first 45 minutes and for about 20 minutes in the second half.

 

 

Aurelien Chedjou calmed proceedings sitting in-front of the two central defenders, while Eyong Enoh and Landry Ngeumo harassed the two Senegalese midfielders (Nguiram Ndaw and Mohamed Ndiame) for the ball. Henri Bedimo who was wide on the left tucked in to provide a helping hand as did Samuel Eto’o who dropped from his attacking position to play on the right of midfield.

 

This prevented the Senegalese fire-power from setting into motion to the point that the host players were booed-off the pitch at half time.

 

Tactical discipline

 

The Senegalese coach, Amara Traore, several other tacticians and the Senegalese press saluted Cameroon’s tactical discipline and the quality of their passing after the encounter.

 

Unfortunately, as good as it was defensively, the system was bereft of vision  going forward. Nguemo was supposed to provide the thrust. Though he was among Cameroon’s best men, according to the Senegalese media, he often failed to deliver quality final balls.

 

Honestly, it wasn’t just a personal weakness. Who could he pass the ball to? Often Achille Webo was alone upfront and (without any bias against the Majorca man) he lacked the technique to dribble his way until Eto’o and Bedimo could join from their wide midfield roles.

 

When Eto’o or Bedimo did succeed to make  in-roads from the flanks,, Webo blew the chances – shooting wide or being out of position to receive the final pass.

 

A friendly match would have been an opportunity to fix that connection between attack and midfield just as it would have been a chance to create further cohesion in the, generally, solid defence that faced Senegal.

 

Eto'o, Webo and Enoh in the midst of the Senegalese defence before a corner, Dakar 26 March 2011

 

 

I have a preference for Sebastien Bassong in central defence but Clemente’s pair of Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia kept the Senegalese at bay until the 92nd minute.

 

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, described by Senegalese newspapers as the best Cameroonian Lion in the game, showed why he had to be in the squad. He displayed technique and a positional sense which helped him cover his central defence colleagues on several occasions.

 

Lopsided formation

 

Benoit Amgwa who played at right-back could not muster such plaudits. He has actually come under heavy criticism for the goal against Cameroon. But was he the only one at fault? I don’t think so.

 

The goal resulted from a defect in the formation put in place by Clemente and the substitutions he made in the second half.

 

In fact, the formation (4-1-3-1-1) when attacking and a 4-5-1 when Cameroon was defending) had a clear wide-left player in Bedimo who stuck to the flank whereas Enoh, who was supposedly his opposite number  on the right, rather stayed close to the central midfield area leaving Amgwa without cover when the attacker (Eto’/ Vincent Aboubakar) cut inside to join the main striker (Webo and later Eto’o).

 

This became really huge once Aboubakar came on. The former Cotonsport Garoua player is full of energy and technique but obviously needs to polish his tactical discipline. Whereas Eto’o usually retreated quickly to block the space behind him once a Cameroon offensive was punctured, Aboubakar often failed to do so.

 

Amara Traore realised the weakness and fielded Issiar Dia who was free to roam the left flank only having Amgwa to deal with. The tired right-back found it hard to contain the Dia’s energy. A hopeful kick by the Senegalese goalkeeper through the yawning gap left by Aboubakar, sparked a chain of poor play from  Enoh (who should have checked Dia) and Amgwa (who  retreated instead of taking on the Senegalese attacker). Dia’s beautiful cross met Demba Ba who beat Idriss Kameni.

 

 

Clemente talks tactics with Choupo-Moting at half-time of Cameroon v Senegal, Dakar, 26 March 2011

Clemente, it must be said, felt by half-time that Senegal could be beaten. He therefore fielded two attackers (Choupo-Moting and Aboubakar).

 

The alternatives

 

The Spaniard could have played Choupo-Moting (who came on for Bedimo) on the right; in which case he would have replaced Webo instead. As such, Eto’o would have played in the centre and Bedimo stayed on the left. Unlike Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting has the tactical wisdom to return to help is defenders as he showed on the left with Assou-Ekotto during this game. Moreover, he has played in this position for his German clubside Hamburg.

 

Somen Tchoyi who is naturally a number 8 but also has the experience of playing as a wide midfielder and a central striker could have come in for Enoh. This would have left Nguemo and Chedjou as destroyers and Tchoyi (or Choupo-Moting) supporting Eto’o from central midfield.

Again, a friendly on 29 March, would have offered a chance the technical staff to test these possibilities. That will sadly not be the case. There will hardly be another opportunity to have the team together again before the return-leg game against Senegal on June 4.

 

Lack of cohesion should never have existed if authorities (and the media) had not gone into witch-hunting mode after the World Cup, destroying the re-construction engineered by Paul Le Guen. But that is another story…

West Ham’s Demba Ba came on as a late substitute for Senegal against Cameroon but his short-stay on the pitch will be remembered for years because of the goal he scored in injury-time when it seemed the game was heading to a scoreless draw.

Achille Webo attacking 26 March 2011 Dakar Gef

Achille Webo misses an opportunity to score against Senegal

Ba benefitted from Issa Diar’s hard work on the left side of the Teranga Lions’ attack and  a moment of hesitation from, an otherwise uncompromising, Cameroon back-line of Benoit Amngwa, Nicolas Nkoulou, Stephane Mbia and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

The consequences of that goal are dire for Cameroon and heavenly for Senegal.

The Cameroonians are now five points adrift of Senegal which tops group “E” of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. They (Lions of the Teranga) have nine points after three victories.

Only the first team in each of the 12 qualifying groups will make it to the  tournament  in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.

They will be joined by the two overall  best second-placed teams in the qualification campaign as well as the co-hosts.

Mathematically, Cameroon could still qualify and even top their group.  For that to happen, though, they need Senegal to lose twice (or at least lose once and draw once) while Cameroon wins all her games. Will that happen?

At the pre-match press-conference in Dakar, Cameroon’s captain, Samuel Eto’o said even a defeat would not mean the end of the world. He might not be wrong but the reality is often different. He looked troubled after the Senegalese goal.

cameroon fans dakar 26 mars 2011

Fans display a large Cameroon flag on 26 March 2011 in Dakar against Senegal

As thousands of Senegalese fans jubilated – it seemed they were clearly seeing their team in Equatorial Guinea and/or Gabon. Just a point from the game against Cameroon in Yaounde (or is it Garoua?) will see them through. And who knows, they might choose to acclamatise in Cameroon! (Well, we’re not there yet)!

Hundreds of Cameroonians were at the Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium. They were hit by the late goal but their joie de vivre was admirable as they kept on dancing and singing hours after the game.

It is rare to see supporters of Cameroon’s Lions in such a mood after a defeat. So thumbs up to the fans who were in Dakar on that Saturday evening.

Senegal versus Cameroon kicks off in a few hours. Cameroon supporters have been readying themselves for the game at their Embassy in Dakar.

supporters getting ready

A Cameroon fan paints himself in national colours before the game

The Indomitable Lions were late. But their fans were ready to wait.  Hundreds of Cameroonians dancing and singing praises to their national football squad witnessed the arrival of the  team ahead of their clash with the Teranga Lions of Senegal at the Dakar Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium on Saturday.

The Senegalese press announced that the Lions would touch down at 6pm local time; but the Cameroon team arrived around 9pm.

Photographers and television crews battled with security men who claimed they were protecting the players. It ended in complete confusion as Cameroon’s captain and star Samuel Eto’o appeared. Some journalists forgot they were reporters and screamed the stars name, others attempted to touch him, the security men shoved, pushed and kicked.

The players barely squeezing themselves out of the arrival lounge to board the coach that was on stand-by. The security men struggled to keep the fans in check. These Cameroonians who were mainly dancers a few hours before, skipped over metal barriers as if they were steeple-chase runners.

“Give us victory, please give us victory,” one man cried   to striker Achille Webo who was comfortably sitted in the air conditioned bus. Whether Webo heard his pleas, I can’t tell but the Majorca player waved.

assou ekotto in the bus

Assou-Ekotto in the team bus in Dakar on 24 March 2011

The man then went to the other side of the bus where Tottenham Hotspur leftback  Assou-Ekotto was sitting with headphones on.

“Assouuuuu, la victoire, seulement la victoire Assou, s’il te plait,” he cried.

Then Eto’o, who had sneaked in, walked to the rear of the bus and waved to the folks who were struggling to catch a glimpse. A big roar followed cries of “Eto’oooooooooo”.

After about half an hour, the coach set-off for the team Hotel. Until that moment very few knew it was going to be the luxurious Radisson Blu situated on the Corniche West, with a picturesque view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Word spread among the fans – in any case. But by the time they could rush to there the Hotel gates were barred and the Lions jumped out. It was already past 10pm that night of 24 March 2011.

“The boys have to rest now, we’ll be available to talk to you at midday tomorrow (Friday),” Linus Pascal Fouda, the Team Press Officer told a pack of journalists who had managed to find their way through the heavy security at Radisson Blu.

Friday’s highlights include a press conference and a training session at the Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium at 6pm.

Lest I forget… The coach, Javier Clemente was also around. At least, I recognised the Spaniard. If one considers the way those fans were calling out for Francois Omam Biyick and Jacques Songo’o – one could be mistaken that they were the coaches

Drums, trumpets and singing from hundreds of excited fans  accompanied Senegal’s Lions of the Teranga during a  training session at the Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium in Dakar on Tuesday.

Tavarez with the ball

Teranga Lions on the move at Tuesday's trainin session

It was the Senegalese national team’s first training session open to the public ahead of their  Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Saturday.

The fans flooded the stands to see their Europe based stars who are determined to stun Cameroon on Saturday 26 March.

The players looked relaxed as they jogged around the pitch before they split into two squads for a short practice match on half of the pitch, under the stewardship of head coach Amara Traore.

From time to time, the Senegalese manager halted the game to provide tactical advice to his players. He constantly demanded them to play with speed and precision.

It would be foolhardy to read his choice of players based on the two squads. The session however suggested that  he may  to deploy at least four offensive players in what starts-off as a 4-4-2 but practically turns into a 4-2-4 when the team is attacking. (Gef’s Football Club shall return to these tactical lessons in a separate post)

The crowd seemed not to care about these tactical issues as they seemed more contented in singing the praises of their “Gaindés” particularly captain Mamadou Niang who earlier that day had been consecrated as a Champion of the MDGs Campaign to Eradicate poverty.

“We’ll beat Cameroon 7 – 0” (watch video) one fans screamed amidst the fanfare that had engulfed the arena. His words are a reflexion of the general mood of optimism among Senegalese as the crucial game nears.

At the moment in Dakar, it feels like Senegal Lions have already won the game. That is why it is easy for many to simply laugh-off a reported blunder by the country’s president, Abdoulaye Wade, who is said to have congratulated the Teranga Lions for their victory over Cameroon last Saturday – seemingly unaware that the game is still to be played (Read more about that here).

More on the Senegal vs Cameroon game to come on Gef’s Football Club…

Cameroonians resident in Senegal will be provided with free tickets and transportation to Dakar’s Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium to support the Indomitable Lions when they clash against the Lions of the Teranga in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Cameroon Embassy officials said on Sunday.

About one thousand supporters of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will storm the Airport in Dakar on 24 March to welcome the team ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal and are also expected to be at the stadium two days later, organisers of a supporters’ group said at a preparatory meeting held at the Cameroon Embassy.

“We have to welcome all the Indomitable Lions at the airport and we will have something like 10 buses rented for that and we have been told that the tickets (for the game) are free of charge to bring most of the Cameroonians to go and support the Lions,” said Ambroise Tama, a member of the organising committee of the supporters’ group.

 Tension is mounting ahead of the Group E clash which Cameroon must not lose in order to maintain hope of qualifying to the AFCON to be co-hosted by its central African neighbours – Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

 Cameroon’s Ambassador to Senegal, Jean Koe Ntonga cautioned Indomitable Lions fans to be fair play at all times, to respect Senegalese laws and regulations  and not to be drawn into brawls with their hosts. He said the encounter was simply a game which is an opportunity to deepen friendly relations between both countries.

 “The Senegalese authorities have assured us that all measures will be taken to protect the Lions and even the supporters of Cameroon,” the Ambassador said.

 Cameroon currently lies second in the group with 4 points after 2 games while Senegal are on top with 6 points.

However, fans of the Indomitable Lions in Dakar say they expect their national football team to defeat the Teranga Lions of Senegal notwithstanding the offensive strength of their opponents.

 “They (Senegalese) say we have only Eto’o while they have six strikers but we shall prove to them that they are kids,” Rodrigue Mbida, a Cameroonian student in Dakar, said at theEmbassy in Senegal.

 Check out videos of Cameroonians at the preparatory meeting on this Youtube page.

*Adds news of Assou-Ekotto and Matip’s selection

George Elokobi, the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender, has been included in Cameroon’s squad to face Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. He is part of three-man additional list that includes Joel Matip and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The list was published late Friday in Yaounde.

Elokobi recently told the British media about his deep wish to be called up to represent his native land has seen his efforts on the field pay-off.

He replaces the injured Gaetan Bong who was on the initial 23-man team summoned to camp Javier Clemente, the Spain-born head coach of Cameroon.

Many observers were surprised that Clemente had picked Bong in the first place, as it was well known that the defender  has been out of action for a month.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham Hotspur, who is probably Cameroon’s best left-back at the moment is also called up to defend his national colours.

A national team insider told Gef’s Football Club that Clemente is punishing Assou-Ekotto for perceived indiscipline but it now seems public and government pressure has swayed the Spaniard (see separate story on Gef’s Football Club).

Roger Milla, Cameroon’s football legend, had taken offence at Clemente’s decision to leave out some players who have been performing in their clubs on the grounds of discipline.

“Those who have compiled this list (team selection) do not like Cameroon. You cannot suspend players and claim to have the best team… If you want the best team, you call everyone,” Milla is quoted as saying.

However, as suggested by a poster on Gef’s Football Club, it is about time Cameroonians stop focusing on who’s absent and concentrate on supporting those included in the squad.

“Those who have been called up should take the challenge and make Cameroonians proud by bringing home all 3 points,” Ensah Bertrand said in a comment on a strory about Elokobi’s fortitude.

The man born in Mamfe, joins vice-captain Eyong Enoh and Mbuta Adongcho to bring to three the number of Cameroonians from the English-speaking part of the country who are part of the expedition to Dakar.

More tit-bits on Senegal v Cameroon to follow…