Tag Archive: cameroon football


Cotonsport Garoua have won the 2011 edition of the Cup of Cameroon. They defeated Unisport du Haut Nkam 3-0 on Sunday in Yaounde. But don’t go thinking it was an exciting encounter. No. The victory came through penalty shoot-outs after both teams had dished out an insipid performance for 90 minutes.

The first-half was the worst football performance I have watched this year. A catalogue of failed passes, mis-controlled balls and misses that were worthy of a secondary school football match.

“I am disappointed,” Henry Njalla Quan, the deputy president of the newly created Cameroon professional football league, said after the game.

“The quality of the match was far below what I expected,” Njalla Quan  told CRTV news.

He hoped the managers would do their utmost to improve their teams before the start of continental club competitions where they are expected to represent Cameroon.

Some of the elementary technical and tactical errors exhibited by the players in that game were a disgrace to local football in Cameroon.

But do we have to put all the blame on the players? Not really.

The teams qualified for this final in August.  They had to wait until December to play the game. Nearly five months, most of which were spent practically doing nothing because the football league also ended within that period.

They had to wait  for the Presidency to set a date since the final marks the end of the sports season in the country, and it is usually chaired by the President of the Republic. The date was only made known this week.

How, in such circumstances, would those players perform well? One could clearly see they lacked match fitness. They were rusty. Training does not replace competitive football. Never.

For the good of the game, it is about time Cameroon set a date (like it’s done elsewhere) at the start of the season. If the President is unavailable for whatever reason, have somebody represent him. The Prime Minister did so last year and the world did not come to an end.

The President gets represented at international summits and various events holding in Cameroon by a plethora of officials from the President of the National Assembly, through the chairman of the (moribund) Economic and Social Council to ministers. Any of these people could do same at the Cup of Cameroon final.

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British TV pundits praised Benoit Assou-Ekotto for his consistency at Tottenham Hotspur after the Cameroonian contributed to his club’s  2-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Monday.

Assou-Ekotto (with a new hairdo) didn’t look perturbed by news that the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) had summoned him to appear at a disciplinary hearing this week, for failing to join Cameroon’s national team at a camp in Morocco.

Has he ditched playing for Cameroon since February as a Douala-based TV station, Equinoxe TV, said on Monday? That story seems to be making the rounds in the  media.

But the facts of the story don’t match reality. If Assou-Ekotto ditched the Indomitable Lions since February (!!?), was it his clone that I saw playing at leftback  against Senegal on 26 March 2011?

Assou-Ekotto is second from left among players crouching as Cameroon players pose before playing Senegal in Dakar on 26 March 2011. Or was it his clone?

Who knows? The administrative hassles and unprofessional organisation surrounding the Lions could push the player into early retirement like Lauren Etame did in 2002. But it would seem (for now) that it was  Javier Clemente who sidelined the player for months. Here’s a timeline of events:

1. In February, Javier Clemente (then Cameroon head coach) does not pick Assou-Ekotto for a friendly against Macedonia. After some players fail to turn-up, the Spaniard hastily recalls the leftback. Assou-Ekotto does not respond to the call.

2. In March, Clemente does not select the leftback for the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal in Dakar.There is  criticism from the media, the fans, Fecafoot and Ministry of Sports officials. Reports say the coach feels undermined by the player’s refusal to come as a back-up in February. When it appears that Clemente’s preferred leftback Gaetan Bong is injured, the coach is seemingly pressured to recall Assou-Ekotto.

3. The player joins the Lions’ camp in Portugal and eventually plays against Senegal. The media in Senegal describe him as Ca meroon’s man of the match alongside midfielders Landry N’Geumo and Enoh Eyong.

4. In May Assou-Ekotto is picked by the national team trainer for the return-leg game against Senegal but he does not travel to Yaounde. N.B: The player was recovering from an injury sustained days before the game.

5. After the 0-0 draw that basically knocked Cameroon out of the race to qualify for the Africa Cup in 2012, Fecafoot summons Assou-Ekotto to a disciplinary hearing for not appearing for that game. The player does not physically appear for the hearing but reportedly forwards documents explaining he was injured.  The committee issues a warning.  The rule book says injured players must have their injuries confirmed/examined by the national team doctor.

6. In August, ahead of a supposed friendly against Salvador, Clemente does not name Assou-Ekotto in his squad. The match fails to hold, though.

7. In September, Clemente names the squad for the qualifier against Mauritius in Yaounde and a friendly (that did not hold) against Mexico in Paris but Assou-Ekotto is not selected. When pressed on local TV, Francois Omam-Biyick the then deputy head coach says Clemente is still angry about Assou-Ekotto’s failure to appear for the game against Senegal in June. Omam says, the head coach views such behaviour as  indiscipline.

8. In October,  Clemente selects the squad for the final Africa Cup qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo and a friendly against Equatorial Guinea but does not pick Assou-Ekotto.

9. With Clemente and his whole backroom staff sacked after the game against Equatorial Guinea, his successor Denis Lavagne names Assou-Ekotto in a team of 28 players for a series of friendlies in North Africa (versus Sudan, Morocco and Algeria).

10. Assou-Ekotto and several other players fail to make it to the camp in Marrakech in early November. The head coach Lavagne says Assou-Ekotto was injured.

“He (Assou-Ekotto) called that he was injured and that’s a shame because it is the third left-back who is injured,” Lavagne told Camfoot.com

Why then is Assou-Ekotto being dragged to the disciplinary council? Did the coach lie to the journalists? Is Assou-Ekotto charged for not showing up to have the team doctor to confirm his injury as Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou did?

Why have Fecafoot not summoned Somen Tchoyi and Benjamin Moukandjo who were also reportedly injured but did not travel to Marrakesh?

Football authorities in Cameroon have summoned the captain of their national football team, Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi Makhachkala) and his deputy Enoh Eyong Takang (Ajax Amsterdam), to a disciplinary hearing after the team refused to play a friendly, local media reported on Sunday.

Cameroon were due to play Algeria on Tuesday 15 Nov but the players did not travel for the game.

Cameroon authorities want Eto’o and Enoh to explain why the team basically went on strike, in what is seen by the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) and the ministry of sport as gross misconduct and a disgrace to the country’s image.

The players had issued a statement on 13 Nov saying they were not ready to play because of the non-payment of an appearance bonus (Prime de Presence) which they receive each time they  are called to camp.

By the time the sports ministry finally wired funds via a money transfer service less than 24 hours before kick-off, the players had firmly opted not to play and the game was cancelled.

The Lions didn't look convinced by what authorities were saying at this meeting in Marrakech. (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda: Team Press Officer)

BAD GOVERNANCE

Officials want to punish the players but soccer pundits in the country have come to the team’s defence.

“The problems the Lions have been facing are not due to the (in)competence of players or the coaches who succeed each other at a furious pace at the helm of this team,” wrote Cameroon Tribune, the government-run daily.

“The issue of governance (administration of the Indomitable Lions) is a major concern,” the paper said.

As an example of bad management, pundits point to the fact that the players only learnt in Morocco (where they were participating in a friendly tournament)  that FECAFOOT was not expected to make any proceeds from the  game in Algeria.

In other words, they had not been told that they were practically going to play in Algeria for free and when they asked they were rebuffed by the officials present, journalists who travelled with the team said on a television show.

It should be noted that FECAFOOT and the players have an arrangement wherein both parties split the proceeds of friendly matches.

“If they asked what they were due and were not given an answer, it is quite normal, or rather, I think they felt  it was quite normal, for their part , not to play this game,” Jean Paul Akono, the deputy national technical director, told CRTV.

“These  are professional footballers… If you do not tell them in advance that they are going to play a match without proceeds, which would surprise me, when they go to play, they expect to be paid… I doubt that there was no fee for this match against Algeria… “ added Akono, who is a former head coach of the Indomitable Lions.

An interview given by the team captain to state radio (CRTV) on Friday 11 Nov, in which he complained about poor organisation and urged the authorities to take action, shows that the players had had enough of the unprofessionalism around them, pundits say.

BLAME GAME

Fecafoot and the ministry of sport have in the days following the incident traded accusations over who was responsible for the unpaid allowances.

The ministry says it only pays the (now infamous) “participation allowance” when the team is playing a competitive fixture, suggesting that the federation should be responsible in the case of friendlies.

FECAFOOT issued a statement which suggests that these allowances are not mandatory but that they were willing to pay then once the team returned from Algeria. A federation spokesman said on local TV (Canal 2 International) that the federation did not have the funds in hand in Morocco.

Both the federation and the ministry of sport have since held crisis meetings in which they resolved to dispatch a team of officials to Algeria to apologise for the failed rendez-vous.

Meanwhile, media  reports say the Algerian football authorities have taken the Cameroon football federation (FECAFOOT)  to football’s governing body FIFA for breach of contract.

The Algerians had sold out tickets for the match and sold broadcast right to several TV stations. They want FECAFOOT to reimburse the losses they have incurred.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto has also been summoned to explain why he did not show up for the camp in Morocco.

Goals from Enoh Eyong Tarkang, Benoit Angbwa and Samuel Eto’o helped Cameroon to a 3-1 defeat of Sudan at the start of the LG Cup in Morocco.

The Indomitable Lions were without six of their regular defenders and had to make do with a right fullback (Allan Nyom) playing on the left and two central midfielders (Joel Matip and Georges Mandjeck) playing as centre-backs.

A screen shot of Eto'o scoring Cameroon's 3rd goal against Sudan on 11 Nov 2011 in Marrakech

The weakness of this make-shift back four was evident in Mandjeck’s poor foul in the 18-yard box that led to Sudan’s goal from the penalty spot.

TACTICS

Cameroon’s head coach started with a 4-3-3 formation and the team played quick, brisk football in the opening stages of the game. The two fullbacks surged forward to support the attack and this was seen in Benoit Angbwa’s goal (Cameroon’s second) at the 35th minute of play.

The Anzhi defender was so high up the pitch that, he is the one who passed the ball to Eric Maxim  Choupo-Moting at the edge of the penalty area. The striker’s shot was  parried away by the Sudanese goalkeeper but Angbwa had followed the action and scored from the rebound.

However, in the latter stages of the first half and most of the second-half, Cameroon’s pressing was not consistent enough especially from midfield. The passing also dipped and became a bit sloppy.

The Sudanese were very quick and operated using rapid counter-attacks when Cameroon lost the ball in their half. Their attacking midfielders displayed cohesion and some purposeful interplay particularly in the second half.

PLAYERS

The Nancy goalkeeper Roland N’dy Assembe showed he is a great shot-stopper when he replaced Idris Kameni. However, he needs to improve his distribution which these days is essential for goalkeepers. He often used long balls which basically returned the ball to the Sudanese.

Joel Matip proved he was an extremely talented player, probably one of the best on the night. He passed well, distributed the ball masterfully, intercepted effectively and read the game properly. Those qualities would have been useful in Cameroon’s midfield, especially in the second half. Hopefully, when the normal centre-backs return after this series of friendlies the coaches would attempt to play Matip as a holding midfielder.

Once again Choupo-Moting was oozing with class and skill. The Mainz forward makes football look so easy with exquisite touch and passing. He has clearly established himself in Cameroon’s starting team. Two goals were scored from rebounds following shots at goal by Choupo-Moting.

He was replaced by Vincent Aboubakar (Valencienne) who also displayed promise and showed signs that he is maturing tactically. Six months ago he would have delayed with the pass to Eto’o that led to Cameroon’s third. Now, the former Cotonsport attacker has added vision and intelligence to his natural talent.

Sali Edgar, another ex-Cotonsport player, has always had vision which he displayed during the African Youth Championships in South Africa this year. He was at the start of the move that led to Eto’o’s goal but also provided much needed width in the second half when Cameroon’s game looked cluttered.

On the other hand, Jacques Zoua (yet another former Cotonsport player)  seemed to over-burdened by his first senior cap for Cameroon. Maybe he would have had a better debut had his thunderous header at the 31s minute not crashed on the cross-bar. It was the ping-pong following that effort which led to Enoh’s curtain-raiser. He could improve his output once he is more confident.

Georges Mandjeck also had problems which may be linked to his unusual role as a centre-back. He had drops in concentration and his positional sense has to improve. It would be nice to see him in his natural midfield position, though.

Allan Nyom  seems to be a very attack minded fullback making regular forward runs. Yet, one could notice he was uncomfortable playing as a left fullback. Hopefully, he would get a chance to prove his worth at right-back in the coming games.

Alex Song impressed going forward (as has been the case since his return); Samuel Eto’o was generally good, as an old hand should be. However, Jean Makoun was below standard and should not be recalled.

Cameroon’s new coaching staff  face a tough start to their tenure after nine players they had short-listed for a series of international friendly matches in North Africa withdrew from the squad due to injuries.

With six defenders (3 centre-backs and 3 left fullbacks) unavailable for selection the head coach Denis Lavagne has to stitch up an all new defence line for Friday’s duel with Sudan.

Lavagne would have to play midfielders as defenders. He is lucky to have Joel Matip, Alex Song and Georges Mandjeck who have played in their European clubs at centre-back this season (or even before) whereas they are nominally holding midfielders.

It is likely that one of the right fullbacks (Allan Nyom) would have to slot into the left-back role in the match against Sudan. Two Cameroon based left fullbacks – Abouna Ndzana and Oyongo Bitolo – have been summoned to join the squad and they are expected to be available for selection in the next game.

Whatever the case, coordination would be a challenge, particularly in the defence, as the players have no prior knowledge of each other’s movements.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) have to stitch-up the defence (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

LAVAGNE’S OPTIONS

It is clear that the defence will be very young and inexperienced with all the probable starters having a grand total of  less than 20 international caps between them. But what about the midfield and attack?  Would Lavagne and his team go for more youthfulness?

For instance, would he dare to keep Samuel Eto’o on the bench and start with an attack line including the likes of Jacques Zoua, Bienvenu Ntsama and Vincent Aboubakar who used to play under his stewardship at Cotonsport Garoua in Cameroon?

The Lions need to be united to succeed despite the injuries (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Cameroon Team Press Officer)

Lavagne had surely based his tactical options on the skills of certain players who are absent. It would be interesting to see how the Frenchman opts to play.

In the final days of Javier Clemente’s reign as Cameroon manager, the team seemed to be toying with a 3-man midfield and 4-3-3 formation. But the Spaniard often reverted to a 4-2-3-1. Would Lavagne stick to these formations?

I know that Lavagne’s assistant, Ndtoungou Mpile, favours the 4-4-2, usually with two holding midfielders and two wide men. When he needed to win a game at all cost, the former Junior Lions manager would field a diamond midfield (1 holding midfielder,2 shuttlers instead of wingers and 1 playmaker behind the front 2) .  Will Lavagne use these ideas?

Possible team: Ndy Assembe; Benoit Angbwa-Joel Matip, Georges Mandjeck – Allan Nyom; Landry N’Geumo, Enow Eyong, Alex Song; Samuel Eto’o, Choupo Moting, Jacques Zoua.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will face Guinea Bissau in the first phase of qualifiers of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The home and away knock-out games will be played in January 2012 at the same time as the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

These will be the first competitive games for Cameroon’s newly appointed technical staff headed by Frenchman Denis Lavagne.

supporters getting ready

Cameroon fans have to get set for the upcoming games

The Nations Cup is being switched from even to odd years so there is only one year between the next two events.

As a result the qualifiers for the 2013 competition have been divided into three parts:

  • A first preliminary stage involving the four  lowest ranked teams that are not qualified for the Africa Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. As such  Seychelles will play against Swaziland while Sao Tome take on Lesotho.
  • The winners of these games plus 26 other countries that have not qualified qualified for the 2012 edition of the Africa cup will face each other in head-to-head (home and away) knock out games (see pairings below).
  • The winners of these games will then be paired against teams that will participate in the 2012 Africa Cup. These games will also be home and away, head-to-head fixtures.
  • The fifteen teams that emerge from this process will join hosts South Africa in the 2013 tournament.

Here is the complete fixture list as drawn by the Confederation of African Football:

Preliminary round one:

Seychelles v Swaziland

Sao Tome v Lesotho

Preliminary round two:

Ethiopia v Benin

Rwanda v Nigeria

Congo Brazzaville v Uganda

Burundi v Zimbabwe

Algeria v The Gambia

Kenya v Togo

Sao Tome/Lesotho v Sierra Leone

Guinea Bissau v Cameroon

Chad v Malawi

Seychelles/Swaziland v DR Congo

Tanzania v Mozambique

Central African Republic v Egypt

Madagascar v Cape Verde

Liberia v Namibia

The Lions ready to go again?Cameroon’s head coach Denis Lavagne has named a squad of 28 players for a series of friendly matches slated in November.

The Indomitable Lions will play against Sudan and Morocco in the LG Cup on before flying to Algiers for a friendly with the Desert Foxes of Algeria.

Lavagne has handed a first call up to Spain-based Allan Nyom. The 23-year-old defender was born in France and started his career at AS Nancy before moving to Arles-Avignon. He then moved to Udinese in Italy which  loaned  him to Spanish Primera Liga side Granada FC.

Tunisia based defender Yaya Banana has also been offered a first senior call-up. He was part of the Junior Lions team that reached the U-20 World Cup quarter-finals this year.

The squad released on Thursday includes mainly players based out of Cameroon, except goalkeeper Jean Efala of Fovu Baham. Cameroon’s league is yet to kick-off for a new season.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Georges Mandjeck and Somen Tchoyi who were absent from Javier Clemente’s recent lists, have all been recalled. But there was no place for Sebastien Bassong.

Media reports in Cameroon say Lavagne will hold a news conference in Yaounde on Friday. He’ll use to opportunity to discuss his plans with the team and also explain his team selection.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Guy Roland NDY ASSEMBE, AS Nancy-Lorraine, France
  2. Idriss Carlos KAMENI, RCD Espanyol Barcelonea, Spain
  3. Jean EFALA KOMGUEP, Fovu de Baham, Cameroon
  4. Benoît ANGBWA, FK Anzi Makachkala, Russia
  5. Allan NYOM, Granada FC, Spain
  6. Nicolas NKOULOU, Olympique de Marseille, France
  7. Aurélien CHEDJOU, Lille Olympique SC, France
  8. Georges MANDJECK, Stade Renais, France
  9. Dany NOUKEU, Gaziantesport,Turkey
  10. YAYA BANANA, Espérance de Tunis, Tunisia
  11. Benoît ASSOU-EKOTTO, Tottenham Hotspurs, England
  12. Gaetan BONG, FC Valenciennes, France
  13. Henri BEDIMO, Montpellier, France
  14. Joël MATIP, Schalke 04, Germany
  15. Alexandre SONG, Arsenal, England
  16. Eyong TARKANG ENOH, Ajax Amsterdam, Holland
  17. Landry NGUEMO, FC Girondins de Bordeaux, France
  18. Benjamin MOUKANDJO, AS Nancy-Lorraine, France
  19. Jean II MAKOUN, Olympiakos, Greece
  20. Edgard SALLI, AS Monaco, France
  21. SOMEN à TCHOYI, West Bromwich Albion, England
  22. ANDONGCHO MBUTA, SC Dinamo Bucarest, Rumania
  23. Jacques ZOUA, FC Basel, Switzerland
  24. Samuel ETO’O, FK Anzi Mackachkala,Russia
  25. Vincent ABOUBAKAR, FC Valenciennes, France
  26. Eric Maxim CHOUPO-MOTING,FSV Mainz 05, Germany
  27. Léonard KWEUKE, AS Spartak Prague, Czech Republic
  28. Bienvenue NTSAMA, Fenerbache, Turkey

Javier Clemente: Was this his last game in-charge of Cameroon?

Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea played a 1-1 draw in an international friendly on Tuesday in Malabo. The Lions scored the curtain raiser through striker Leonard (Leonie) Kweuke before their hosts equalised. .

Cameroon coach Javier Clemente fielded a second-string team for this encounter apart from Alexandre Song who was duly withdrawn by the second-half to prevent him picking-up an injury.

Cameroon’s passing, especially in that second-half, was really woeful. Eric Djemba Djemba showed again that he doesn’t deserve to be recalled to the team, often losing possession as was the case against Mauritius and Congo (Kinshasa).

Abouna Ndzana, the young Astres Douala full-back who deputised at right-back, showed enthusiasm surging forward, but he was often caught out of position. His short-passing was unimpressive and he kept kicking the ball long to the forwards who were not the tallest in the world once Kweuke had been substituted.

The players generally looked tired and sluggish. This was not helped by the rugged play by the hosts whose tackles that gave a stop-start tempo to the game. It was unpleasing to watch.

A [particularly bad challenge against Kweuke forced the Cameroon coaches to replace him with Benjamin Moukandjo Bille just before half-time. His teammates got enraged when the referee didn’t whistle for a foul or warn the Equato-Guinean player.

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-host showed determination and power which led to their equaliser. But they hardly ever got near to Jules Goda’s goal area on his 1st start for Cameroon.

Edgar Sali, who only five months ago was still playing for the U-20s, gave a good account of himself. However, his set-pieces were poorly taken whereas that is one of his strengths.

Will this be Clemente’s last game as head coach of the Indomitable Lions? The rumour mill has been grinding since Cameroon failed to beat Senegal in June.

The Spaniard however says he is there to re-build the squad and is in for the long-term with Cameroon regardless of the team’s failure to qualify for next year’s AfCon tournament.

The re-building process continues next month when Cameroon plays two international friendlies against Ivory Coast and Algeria. Will the Spaniard be in-charge then?

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

Samuel Eto’o, Mbuta Adongcho and Leonie Kweuke all scored for Cameroon when they beat Mauritius 5-0 but the most outstanding performer for the Indomitable Lions was Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting. He scored twice and tormented the opposing defenders for 90 minutes.

Choupo-Moting was the bright spot in a tedious first-half in which Cameroon could not break down the very defensive 4-5-1 (practically 4-6-0) formation built by the Mauritius coach.

Playing in a 4-2-3-1, as we had predicted, Cameroon were unable to start attacking moves from midfield as both central midfielders had difficulty being creative.

Head coach Javier Clemente would surely come under a barrage of criticism for choosing to play Alexandre Song and Eric Djemba at the same time.

His choice to go with Henri Bedimo, a defender (left full-back)  as part the three players supporting the main striker also backfired as the Montpellier man could not deliver the creativity and penetration required. Bedimo was substituted at half-time and his replacement,  Kweuke, scored barely three minutes into the second half.

By then, Clemente had moved Samuel Eto’o to the wide left position. The imposing Kweuke played as the sole front-man supported by the technically gifted Choupo-Moting. Eto’o dribbled with ease on the left and after a series of good moves with Choupo, the Anzhi striker made a superb pass for Mbuta Adongcho to score Cameroon’s second.

However, the Lions midfield remained cumbersome until Djemba was substituted for Landry N’Geumo who simply turned the game around with his movement, forward passes and energy. It is no surprise that the rest of Cameroon’s goals came after his inclusion.  It had taken a while but Clemente finally realised that keeping N’Geumo on the bench was an error.

FRIENDLIES PLEASE 

Choupo-Moting gave the crowd moments to cheer with dribbles, twists and turns which left the Mauritius defenders on the floor. He excelled in all forward positions – playing wide but also coming into the centre to make quick one-two passes that created scoring chances for the Lions.

We can’t read too much into this performance given that it was against football minnows like Mauritius but the coaches have to tailor the cast around him.

Mbuta Adongcho scored some points through his zeal and dynamism. He was willing to take up positions in the 18-yard box that put pressure on the islanders and it is no surprise that he scored twice (one seems to have been cancelled for a handball). But he was caught offside (on the wings!) on several occasions which betrays a certain lack of tactical and positional sense.

The Lions would be happy to have broken their barren patch but Cameroon should have scored more goals – given how weak the opponents were.  Unfortunately, cohesion was a problem until the second-half. There were four changes from the game against Senegal, including two players who have not been in the squad for over a year.

The team was crying out for a friendly or two. It is shame that they can’t get one. They need it as part of the reconstruction effort ahead of the next qualifying campaign.

By the way, Senegal have already qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations as group winners after they beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 in Dakar.

Javier Clemete, head coach of Cameroon at a press conference

It is now a year since Javier Clemente was appointed as head coach of the Cameroon national football team. As I prepared to post an assessment of his tenure this far, I found hidden beneath the drafts section of this blog, an article I had written last year as a preview of Clemente’s reign.

For several reasons including being busy with the work that (actually) earns me a living, I somehow forgot to click the publish button.

Apart from verifying if our predictions about Clemente were correct, it is only fair and honest that I post how I previewed his tactics and man-management upon his appointment  before any review of his time with the Indomitable Lions (hoping I don’t forget the review in my drafts!).

As written in August 2010:

On 4 September (2010), the island state of Mauritius will host the first pride of Lions under Javier Clemente’s mantle. The players were probably selected by his assistants but we would expect to see a touch of Clemente in terms of tactics and formations in that Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Some pundits think that under the Spaniard, Cameroon could play like the current Spanish national football team. That may be unlikely.

In his home country, Clemente is typically associated to  what Sid Lowe, a British journalist covering Spanish football, described as “defensive, devious and downright dirty football.”

His baseline strategy is to have two defensive midfielders in front of the centre-backs, operating deep and dispossessing the opposition. 

“His sides then hit the opposition on the break, if he has the right people,” says Phil Ball another Spanish football pundit. 

Clemente prefers players who cover spaces to maintain defensive balance and is supposedly fond of using defensive midfielders and centre-backs everywhere on the pitch.

With more than half of Cameroon’s Europe-based footballers being defensive midfielders, he surely has the implements he needs.

It might not be eye-catching at times, but it would often get the result. In his six years as Spain’s head coach he lost only 6 of the 62 games they played.

Considering that the Lions finished the World Cup without a single point (31st out of 32 teams), that they have conceded 23 goals in 13 matches (including a run of 10 games without a single win), maybe Cameroon football officials thought a man with such a history of repairing defensive leaks was the best bet to turn the tides.

SAVING DESPERATE LIONS

Cameroon media claimed that disorder and indiscipline in the Lions’ den (as usual) led to their woeful output in South Africa.  If the stories of bloated egos and clashes between players are a reality, it would be interesting to see how things work in a dressing room run by someone described as a “crass, tactless bully.”

He is said to be honest and direct to a fault, telling his players his mind and ready to pick a fight with anyone who thinks they are too big to toe the line.

My concern, however, is that authorities who were talking of long-term building, four year contracts, “no more quick-fix coaches,” etc seem to have ended up with a manager whose profile is that of man called up to rescue desperate teams that have dug themselves into a hole.

“People who have a problem, people who think that no one else can help, people who can find him,” is how Lowe described teams that hire Clemente.

“People like Athletic Bilbao, who called upon him when they were threatened by relegation in 2005-06 and saw him get a reaction, picking up 22 of the last 36 points to pull clear,” Sid Lowe wrote in the British newspaper, the Guardian.

How come FECAFOOT scouts didn’t spot Clemente in June 2009 when the Lions were in limbo requiring some emergency aid to qualify to the World Cup? Instead they hired Paul Le Guen, who ended up as a talent scout and long-term planner (bringing in many youngsters into the team).

“If you are struggling, leaking goals and are down on your confidence, the last thing you need is the arrival of a revolutionary young guru, with ambitious and complex new ideas,” Phil Ball wrote in an article for ESPN.

Who knows? Maybe Cameroon authorities were thinking along these lines when they hired Clemente.

Good decision-making, though, has hardly been their greatest asset. The performances of the Lions under Clemente will be the judge of their wisdom.