Tag Archive: fifa world cup


Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions defeated Moldova 1-0 in Yaounde in their final pre-World Cup friendly, which also served as an opportunity for fans to bid ‘farewell’ to the squad that leaves the country on Sunday for Brazil.

Edgar Salli scored Cameroon’s goal at the 30th minute of the match following a cross from the right flank by the talented Benjamin Moukandjo.

There was little else to write home about the game in which the Cameroon players were clearly under instruction not to over commit, in order to avoid last minute injuries.

The Indomitable Lions ‘traditionally’ play an exhibition game where the 23-man squad is divided into two camps for a show, ostensibly to allow the fans say farewell and bless the team. This year officials of the football federation decided to organise an international friendly instead.

Cameroon's Starting Eleven versus Moldova in Yaounde on 7 June 2014

Cameroon’s Starting Eleven versus Moldova in Yaounde on 7 June 2014

Head coach Volker Finke rested the team captain, Samuel Eto’o, as well as Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, the most prolific scorer since they started preparing for the World Cup last May.

However, the German trainer started Aurelien Chedjou, who had been carrying an injury thus missing Cameroon’s previous warm up matches. Chedjou was paired with Nicolas N’Koulou at the centre of defence. Henri Bedimo started at left-back while Allan Nyom got the nod as right-back. The latter missed a sitter towards the end of the game drawing scorn and catcalls from fans who were at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.

Alex Song anchored midfield alongside Enoh Eyong and Landry N’guemo but the energy and harrying displayed in the game against Germany (in which this trio featured together in the 2nd half) was absent.

In all it was a flat performance only spiced (once in a while) by the dribbling from Moukandjo who started as part of a forward trio including Salli and Achille Webo. The

There were numerous substitutions but this didn’t change the game whose flow was seriously hampered by the poor turf that gave an awkward bounce to the ball.

Moldova camped in their half of the field for most of the contest. They stepped up in the second half and came close to an unexpected equaliser from a well taken free-kick in the final minutes of the game.

Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philemon Yang handed over a Cameroon flag to the country’s German-born coach at the end of the game. The team departs for Brazil on Sunday

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Cameroon will play against Mexico in the round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Columbia after they defeated Uruguay 1-0 to finish as runners-up in Group B on Friday.

Their coach Martin Ndtoungou, by the same token maintains his little-known record of being part of the coaching staff of every Cameroon national team that has crossed the first round of an international (non-African) competition since 2000.

Cameroon Football Fans

He was Jean Paul Akono’s assistant when Cameroon won Olympic Gold in Sydney (2000) and Winfried Schaeffer’s number 2 when Cameroon reached the final of the FIFA confederations Cup and lost to a Thierry Henri golden goal in 2003.

He led the fine pride of U-23 Lions that reached the quarter-finals of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (only to lose to Ronaldinho’s Brazil); and now he has taken this set of cubs to the knock-out stage of the World Cup.

Successful Tactical Switch

It wasn’t an easy ride. The coach had to make a few changes after the team drew (1-1 with New Zealand) and lost (0-1 to Portugal) in its opening two games.

He changed his tactics from a flat 4-4-2 to a diamond midfield (4-1-3-2) with just one holding midfielder Frank Kom and a playmaker (engache) Emmanuel Mbongo Ewangue operating behind two strikers: Frank Ohandza and Christ Mbondi.

The passing was haphazard and sloppy at the start of the game. However, the flexibility of Ndtoungou’s tactics – which permitted the team to shift into a 4-2-1-3 with an attacking threesome of Mbondi (wide left) Ohandza (centre) and Yazid Atouba (wide right) supported by Mbongo –  delivered the goods as Mbongo scored the lone goal of the game from a cross by Mbondi in the 28th minute of play.

Eyewitnesses say after the game the team exploded with joy.

“Players singing and dancing some even shouting at the top of their voices,” Simon Lyonga, CRTV’s envoy in Columbia told me. “It shows that they too badly needed the win and the second round ticket,” he added when we had a debrief shortly after the game.

But Lyonga, who represented Cameroon at youth level and has covered several international competitions as a reporter, was quick to warn against any complacency saying the team must focus on the challenges to come against Mexico and forget the euphoria of beating Uruguay.

And he’s right.

Could be better

There was victory over Uruguay but creativity remains a weakness in the team with too many hopeful balls from the goalkeeper to the attackers.

The fact that Ndtoungou Mpile has changed formations in every game and tested several players as playmaker shows he is worried.

Mbongo and Herve Mbega alternated as playmakers against Uruguay while Clarence Bitang often confused playmaking with irrelevant flicks and dribbles which ended with Cameroon  losing possession when he held the role against Portugal. (He came on as a substitute against Uruguay).

Will Ndtoungou continue with his diamond/4-2-1-3 formations which require a quality ‘engache’ or will he return to his favoured flat 4-4-2 with two holding midfielders?

Learn how to score

Then there is the small (but important) matter of scoring goals. The Junior Lions have made it to the round of 16 with only 2 goals scored (we can’t tally their own goal for New Zealand!).

But someone has to teach Frank Ohandza how to score a goal! He must stop missing like he did at the 25th, 35th, 66th, and 70th minutes when  gaffes by the Uruguay keeper and defence gifted him with scoring opportunities that he wasted.

Ndtoungou and his assistant, Engelbert Mbarga, must be cursing the European clubs that refused to allow sharp-shooters like Jacques Zoua Dogari (FC Basel, Switzerland) and Vincent Aboubakar (Rennes, France) from joining the squad.

The coaches can only imagine how Shalke midfielder Joel Matip’s clean interceptions and his eye for a forward pass and Monaco’s Edgar Sali’s technique and penetrative skills could have been useful to unlock defences. But they are both absent as well.

Ndtoungou has shown in this competition and in the past (All Africa Games, Olympics and African Youth Championships) that he knows how to blend the (little talented) players at his disposal to make winning teams. Let’s see if his science will work against Mexico.

Cameroon na bol

Cameroon is the World’s 40th ranked nation in football according to the monthly rankings released by football’s governing body (FIFA) on Wednesday.

The Lions were ranked 19th in June but after three defeats to Japan (0-1), Denmark (1-2) and Holland (1-2) during the World Cup in South Africa they experienced their worst fall (21 places) since the rankings were introduced.

In December 2009, they were Africa’s top ranked squad (11th in the world) and now they are the 7th best nation on the continent. They are behind Gabon (6th in Africa and 34th in the world), Algeria (5th and 33rd), Nigeria (4th and 30th), the Ivory Coast (2nd and 26th) and Egypt (1st and 9th).

The current rankings simply display a disastrous 2010 in which Cameroon’s Lions have obtained 2 victories for 7 defeats and 4 draws while conceding a total of 22 goals.

The FIFA rankings are made on the basis of points attributed to or deducted from senior national football teams following victories, draws or defeats within a given period. They do not necessarily tell the absolute value of a team on the pitch but they are  seen as a scale of a team’s recent progress and usually used to determine seeds in tournaments. 

The World Champions Spain currently top the chart followed by  Holland, Brazil, Germany and Argentina, in that order.

Returning to a prestigious spot on the FIFA rankings may be on the mind of Cameroon’s  new national team coach to be appointed before a friendly international game in August.  But, rebuilding  Cameroon football after World Cup 2010 is beyond quick victories or defeats.

It has to do with policies and concrete action to develop the game from the grassroots and setting long-term targets to be achieved at various levels of the game and its organisation in the country.  Where do we want to be in four years time? What should we achieve by 2014 or 2018?

Cameroon takes on Portugal in a tasty World Cup preparatory game on Tuesday. It will be Cameroon’s biggest challenge since they started preparations for the World Cup on 20 May and the first in which the whole squad including its captain, Samuel Eto’o, would be available.

Most importantly, it would be the best opportunity to verify if the Indomitable Lions’ coaching team has tackled issues such as : Samuel Eto’o’s position, who to play at right-back and the disconnect between the midfield and the attack.

What’s Eto’o’s position?

Paul Le Guen like his predecessors (Winfried Shaeffer, Arthur Jorge and Otto Pfister), is convinced that Samuel Eto’o is not a big, strong, leading central striker like Drogba, Torres, or Mboma. He believes Eto’o is better as part of a 3-man attack-line where he could be deployed on the left, right or centre as has been the case at Inter Milan (where Diego Milito is the centre-forward).

The other option is to play Eto’o as a second striker in the hole behind a big and strong forward. Eto’o excelled in that role alongside Patrick Mboma at the start of the century. (See video of how this worked perfectly in Mboma’s goal against Ireland at the 2002 World Cup).

Le Guen (like Otto Pfister before him) has used as the playmaker behind two strikers – against Egypt at the quarter-finals in Angola.

Most Cameroonians, though, see Eto’o as a finisher who must be at the tip of Cameroon’s offensive play. They think any other role is a waste of potential. He ends up acting like a defender instead of being a goal threat.

Where will he play at the World Cup? Should the staff choose to play him as the central striker (N°9) – who will be supporting him? If they maintain him as playmaker (N°10) – which two players will play in-front of him? Should he be asked to play the supporting role – who will be the Patrick Mboma (furthest striker forward)?

We may like or hate Samuel Eto’o’s personality; think he is not a good leader; wrongly or rightly believe he has underachieved in the Lions’ shirt compared to Patrick Mboma or Roger Milla; but he remains Cameroon’s most potent threat today. It is therefore important to know how he shall be deployed at the World Cup.

What is the missing link?

Cameroon has also found it hard to score in their recent encounters because the team – no link between the midfield and the attack. Observers like Roger Feutmba, a retired Cameroon international, believe that this is due the lack of flair players in the midfield.

“How do you expect attackers to have the ball in a position to score when there is no one to make the pass?” Feutmba asked on a programme broadcast by the private TV channel, STV.

Cameroon started against Slovakia with a midfield triangle of: Alex Song in the holding role ahead of the defence, Enoh Eyong Tarkang and Jean Makoun playing slightly ahead of him. The coordination was an improvement to what was seen in the game against Georgia but the killer pass to the forwards was still lacking.

“They are all defensive midfielders – how do you expect them to be creative!?” Feutmba said. The former offensive midfielder, however, agreed that Cameroon did not possess such creative players at the moment. He thus advised that the coach re-adapt the system to the kind of players he has at his disposal – playing in a 4-3-1-2 with Emana as the playmaker behind Eto’o and another striker.

Meanwhile, Cameroon is also lacking in quality wingers and offensive play on the flanks. Le Guen’s 4-3-3 formation has managed to conceal this shortcoming because attackers like Eto’o and Emana or full-backs such as Assou-Ekotto shoulder the responsibility of wing play. This worked during one-off qualifying matches but it didn’t function at the AFCON.

Who is running on the right flank?

The weakest link in the Indomitable Lions has, however, been the right-back position. The country has been unable to produce a top drawer full-back since Stephen Tataw retired. In 1998, Claude Le Roy and his assistant Pierre Mankowsky resolved the problem by tweaking Cameroon’s formation from 4-3-3 (under Jean Manga Ougene) to 3-5-2 before the Mondial in France.

This accommodated the country’s production line of defensive midfielders – Olembe, Wome, Geremi, Lauren, Ndo – who became powerful wing-backs in a system the Lions used until 2003.  Winfried Shaffer opted to play midfielders the like Geremi Njitap and Timothee Atouba as full-backs in his back four.

Presently, the right-back postion remains a real head-ache. Geremi’s lack of pace and explosion has forced the coach to drop him to the reserves bench.  He has tried Georges Mandjeck, Aurelien Chedjou, Abouna Ndzana, Makadji Boukar, Marcel Djeng but none has successfully imposed himself.

After the friendly against Italy in March, Paul Le Guen suggested that he would field Stephane Mbia at right-back.  The Marseilles player finished the season as the revelation of the year at centre-back. Will Cameroon’s coach stick to plan and use him as right-back?

Cameroon versus Portugal will be an insight to Le Guen’s strategy on all of these issues. The fact that the Portuguese (who are ranked 3rd in the World by FIFA) have worries of their own offers an interesting twist to the game.

Cameroon football legend Roger Milla has said three-time African player of the year Samuel Eto’o has not lived up to expectation for his country.

“He has given a lot to Barcelona and Inter Milan but has never proved anything with the national team,” Milla said in a story run by the French news agency (AFP).

It is the latest onslaught by the star of Cameroon’s 1990 World Cup campaign in Italy on the man widely seen to be his successor on the country’s football stage.  Last year, Milla blamed Eto’o for the confusion that reigned within the Indomitable Lions under former head coach, Otto Pfister.

He has now attributed the team’s current poor run of form on the captain – – -Samuel Eto’o.

“He maltreated the other members of the squad; something that has never happened in the national team,” Milla said in reference to rumours that Eto’o was rude to some of his team-mates in the dressing room at January’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Angola. “Cameroon is still waiting to see him act,” he added.

CONFLICT OF GENERATIONS

Eto’o, three time winner of the UEFA Champions League trophy, has not yet responded to what seems to have become a battle of generations on who is the Cameroon’s most successful footballer.

After Milla’s severe criticism of the Inter Milan player at the end of 2009, Eto’o is understood to have caused the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) to bar his boyhood hero (Milla) from the Indomitable Lions’ entourage. Milla who is an honorary chairman of FECAFOOT was not even included in the association’s delegation to the AFCON.

Roger Milla, twice African Player of the Year (1976 & 1990), won two AFCON trophies in 1984 and 1988 endeared himself with the Cameroon’s fans for his goals in key matches and most especially for his contribution at the age of 38 to the Lions’ run to the quarter-finals of the  World Cup in 1990, which remains their best performance to date in this competition.

He, however, seems to be oblivious of the fact that Eto’o has won two AFCONs in 2000 (where he scored 4 goals) and in 2002 with the Indomitable Lions; was part of the Cameroon’s  team  Olympic Gold medal winning crop in 2000 (scored a vital goal against Spain in the final and his penalty in the shoot-out that led to victory); was also decisive at the Confederations Cup in 2003 where he scored the winning goal against Brazil in a tournament where Cameroon only faltered at the final (the best African performance in a FIFA senior teams competition).

Milla, who was named Africa’s player of the past 50 years, is undoubtedly a legend who is not afraid to speak his mind. Still, to say that Cameroon’s all time highest goal scorer (43 goals in 92 appearances) who contributed 9 out of 20 goals scored by the country to qualify the team to the 2010 World Cup, has done nothing for his national team is stretching things a bit.

Eto’o’s supporters say the 29-year-old has already achieved what Milla did in 42 years with the national team (bar a World Cup quarter-final).

“Milla’s first tournament victory with the national team was at the age of 32, which means if we have to strictly compare what each offered Cameroon by the age of 30 Milla cannot compare with Eto’o.  Milla was great and he should please, respect himself,” an Eto’o fan said on a Cameroon internet forum.

WORLD CUP DOUBTS

The 58-year-old Roving Ambassador also reserved a few scathing remarks for the current head coach of his darling national team, saying the Africa Cup of Nations was a disaster which does not inspire confidence for the coming World Cup.

“I didn’t agree with Paul Le Guen’s list of 30 [players short-listed for the World Cup]…  People are bitter and they doubt Le Guen,” he said.

He was more graceful about his past and how he brought some joy to Cameroonians when he scored a goal at the age of 42 when Russia trounced Cameroon 6-1 in the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

Milla also believes, his dancing by the post on every goal he scored at the World Cup (see video above) was the first and best of all time.

“It was spontaneous, I hadn’t prepared it. Now, people hop around, imitate robots, it’s all prepared stuff and nothing to do with dance.”

Arsenal striker Emannuel Adebayor has trained with his mates of the Togolese national team ahead of their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Cameroon built for Accra – Ghana. The captain of the Hawks (nickname of the Togolese team) could be seen in the video below jogging with the group and receiving tactical advice from their Belgian-born manager Jean Thissen.

When Adebayor was included in the selection called to camp for this game, many pundits suggested that he was merely going to serve as a morale booster for the rest of the players. They argued that Togo would not risk a club versus country row by playing the foward who is  recovering from a hamstring injurey that has kept him out of Arsene Wenger’s team for the past weeks. But a member of Togo’s techanical staff is quoted as saying that Adebayor did not make the trip for nothing. His presence in training so far suggests that he may well be involved Saturday’s confrontation.

Fans in West Africa are eager to watch a match-up between the Indomitable Lions’ Samuel Eto’o (three time African footballer of the year) and Emmanuel Adebayor who received the CAF African Player of the Year 2008 award in February. The last time the two faced each other while playing for their national teams was in January 2006 at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Eto’o who had just returned from a knee injury led the Lions to a 2-0 victory (scoring and making an assist) against the Hawks who were on their way to the FIFA World Cup in Germany.