Tag Archive: javier clemente


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?

Cameroon have won a friendly football tournament (LG Cup) after they defeated Morocco 4-2 during a penalty shoot-out. Both teams were tied 1-1 after regular play time and had to revert to penalties to have a winner as per the rules of the competition.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) win first trophy but did they get their tactics right? (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

Samuel Eto’o, Henri Bedimo, Dany Noukeu and Enoh Eyong scored their spot kicks for Cameroon while while Morocco missed two of theirs.

Cameroon may have won but Morocco were the better playing side for most of the 90 minutes (plus injury time). Their short passing was precise, with regular one-twos and give-and-go passes that ran the Cameroon midfield ragged.

The Atlas Lions (Morocco) also showed they had the capacity to switch their game, adding more penetration that took Cameroon’s midfield off-guard. This put the centrebacks: Georges Mandjeck (preferred to Joel Matip) and Dany Noukeu on the back-foot

The Indomitable Lions were playing a 4-3-3 where the fullbacks were expected to bomb forward to create width and support the attackers but Morocco played so high-up and at such high tempo that, Bernard Angbwa (right-back) and Henri Bedimo (Left-back) were hemmed-in for most of the encounter.

FIGHTING SPIRIT OVER TECHNIQUE

Two games in two days may have stretched the Indomitable Lions physically. They were forced (by a deluge of injuries) to start with the same that played against Sudan on Friday. However, in a very Cameroonian never-say-die spirit (which had been missing for a while) the team refused to lose.

By the 75th minute when Eto’o scored the curtain-raiser, the Moroccans had obtained 8 corner-kicks to Cameroon’s none. The Moroccans also squandered several goal scoring opportunities, often shooting wide but also denied by the impressive N’Dy Assembe in Cameroon’s goal.

Towards the last 15 minutes of the first-half and during a 15-minute spell before and after Eto’o’s opener Cameroon, however regained the upper-hand. Enoh, Landry N’Geumo and Alex Song fighting for every ball and blocking every space in midfield.

The technique from young Vincent Aboubakar and substitutes Edgar Salli and Jacques Zoua temporarily shifted the balance of power. Were it not for for a really poor final shot from Jean Makoun after a superb combination, Cameroon would have been 2-nil up before the Moroccans equalised.

The Olympiakos player who is not a first choice for Cameroon anymore surely lost the little sympathy fans still have for him.

RETURN OF THE 4-3-3 DEBATE

It is not unusual for Cameroon to win games and tourneys without being the most pleasing side to watch. The Junior Lions typified this Cameroonian quality during the African Youth Championships and the U-20 World Cup tournaments this year.

Nonetheless Cameroon fans have already started complaining about the 4-3-3 formation that coach Denis Lavagne is using. (Does that sound familiar Mr Le Guen?) Many have suggested on online forums that Cameroon hasn’t got the players for that system so the team should return to a  4-4-2  formation that will provide natural width.

I don’t really fancy Cameron playing a system that hinges on wide men. They do not have the players that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Harry Rednapp’s Tottenham have got. Does Cameroon have Nani, Ashley Young, Gareth Bale and Lennon type players?

The country produces mostly players who feature in the centre of the pitch (centre-backs, central midfielders and strikers). Only the list of centre-backs and defensive midfielders could make up a squad:  Nicolas Nkoulou, Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Sebastien Bassong, Yaya Banana, Dany Noukeu, Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, Andre Bikey, Joel Matip, Alex Song, Eyong Enoh, Landry N’geumo, etc.

A DIAMOND COMPROMISE

Indomitable Lions coaches have resorted to playing systems where they can adapt some of the strikers as wide forwards (but not wingers) or playmakers or given creative roles to otherwise defensive midfielders.

This has usually meant playing formations such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 (a.k.a Christmas Tree) and 4-3-3. When they have tried playing 4-4-2, they have been forced to use fullbacks (such as Henri Bedimo) as wingers, drawing the ire of the same fans and media calling for a return to ‘simple ways’.

A compromise between playing 4-4-2 and fitting the kind of players at the disposal of Cameroon’s coaches would be to play a diamond midfield: a holding midfielder, a playmaker behind two strikers and 2 shufflers running the channels in midfield (playing narrow) but not wingers.

Although, I’d advise the managers to do things as they deem right for the team, they might want to try a diamond midfield against a relatively weaker opponent. Isn’t it one of  Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s (deputy head coach) favourite formations?

However, there’d be little width except the fullbacks join in (requiring a lot of defensive and attacking duties for them). The game would be overly dependent on the playmaker being able to click creatively but also supporting the defence.

Bienvenu Ntsama, the  forward who currently plays for Turkish side Fernerbahce, is set to start for Cameroon this Sunday when they clash with hosts Morocco at the 2011 LG Cup, Cameroon media correspondents say.

The striker who scored 16 goals last season for Swiss club Young Boys Bernes is quick and sharp in-front of goal. He can play as a second striker dropping deep to support play but could also function in wide attacking roles.

Ntsama is expected to be part of a front-three that includes Vincent Aboubakar, a former Cotonsport forward (now playing for Valencienne in France) and Indomitable Lions captain Samuel Eto’o.

Ntsama was first called to camp in an international friendly against Poland in 2010. He was part of the squad that played against Mauritius in September last year but was not recalled until September this year. This may be a chance for him to stake a claim for a place in the squad.

He will be replacing Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting who picked up a knock on the ankle during Cameroon’s 3-1 defeat of Sudan at the start of the LG Cup on Friday. Reports say Choupo-Moting has been released by Cameroon’s coaching staff to enable him return to his German club, Mainz, for proper treatment and rest.

Choupo-Moting’s situation only adds to the injury woes that have hit Cameroon as they seek to re-build their team through a series of friendlies in North Africa. Strikers Leonard Kweuke, Benjamin Moukandjo and Somen Tchoyi; as well as defenders Nicolas Nkoulou, Aurelien Chedjou, Gaetan Bong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto had earlier pulled-out of the squad due to injury.

Cameroon players on reserve bench, Dakar 26 March 2011

From left to right: N'Dy Assembe, Vincent Aboubakar , Georges Mandjeck, Choupo-Moting, Abouna Ndzana and Tchoyi on the reserve bench in Dakar against Senegal. A 26 March 2011 photo by GEF.

This forced head coach Denis Lavagne to field two central midfielders, Joel Matip and Georges Mandjeck, as centrebacks in the game against Sudan. While Matip came out relatively unscathe, Mandjeck had a rough time and even conceded a penalty that led to the Sudanese goal.

The Rennes midfielder is now expected to start Sunday’s game on the bench while Dany Noukeu, a regular centre-back will partner Matip at the heart of Cameroon’s defence.

Allan Nyom, the Granada FC rightback, who was a make-shift left fullback on Friday will start on the bench as Henri Bedimo (a regular leftback) has shaken off an injury  is fit to start against the Atlas Lions.

Two fullbacks from Cameroon’s national league – Abouna Ndzana and Oyongo Bitolo – have now joined the camp and may be given a run at some point. They were summoned when the coaches realised that all of Cameroon’s main left fullbacks were injured.

Goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni, who got injured barely 20 minutes into the game against Sudan, has yet to recover which means Guy Roland N’Dy Assembe of French side Nancy will start against Morocco.

The coaches have shown confidence in the midfield trio of Enoh Eyong, Landry N’Geumo and Alexandre Song that started against Sudan. Hopefully, they would maintain a consistent level of passing and pressure on opponents to regain possession throughout the game. There was a dip in their performance during the second half of the encounter against Sudan.

Here’s the expected starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation: Assembe; Angbwa (RB) – Matip (CB) – Noukeu (CB) – Bedimo (LB); N’Geumo (CM) – Enoh (CM) – Song (CM); Aboubakar (FW) – Eto’o (ST) – Ntsama (FW).

Denis Lavagne has named Jacques Zoua of Swiss club FC Basel among the players to start for Cameroon against Sudan at the LG Cup in Morocco. It is the youngster’s first senior international cap.

Zoua, who played for Cotonsport under the stewardship of Lavagne, will be part of a three-man forward line that includes team captain Samuel Eto’o and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting.

The team is expected to start in a 4-3-3 formation with Enoh Eyong Tarkang (Ajax Amsterdam), Landry Ngeumo (Bordeaux) and Alexandre Song (Arsenal) playing in midfield. Enow is expected to play as the holding midfielder (a la Busquets for FC Barcelona) while N’guemo and Song would push further forward.

The back-four of Benoit Angbwa (Anzhi), Joel Matip (Shalke 04), Georges Mandjeck (Rennes) and Allan Nyom (Granada FC)  will be playing together for the first time and would need a lot of cover from the more experienced midfielders and goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni.

The full line-up then: Kameni; Angbwa (RB), Matip (CB), Mandjeck (CB), Nyom (LB); Nguemo (M); Enoh (M); Song (M); Zoua (FW), Eto’o (ST); Choupo-Moting (FW).

Apart from the goalkeeper, it is the team Gef’s Football Club predicted last evening. It would seem Lavagne has opted for continuity in terms of the formation used by Javier Clemente in his latter days.

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

Denis Lavagne has been named interim head coach of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions. He is at the helm of a three-man team that includes Martin Ndtoungou Mpile as deputy head coach and Pierre Mbarga as goalkeeping trainer.

Their mission is to qualify Cameroon for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by South Africa. In order words, they must succeed where the previous staff headed by the Spaniard Javier Clemente failed.

Clemente and his assistants Francois Omam Biyick and Jacques Songo’o were sacked on Tuesday for failing to qualify the Lions to the 2012  Africa Nations Cup  in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Is this 47-year-old Frenchman the right man for the job?  Was he appointed simply because he is a foreigner willing to stay in Cameroon as some pundits have claimed in the media? (Listen to him speak moments after his appointment).

Lavagne was an assistant coach at four clubs – Nimes, Bastia, Valence and Bezier – in France’s lower leagues. He then became head of the academy at Sedan football club in France and Qatar Sports club in Qatar. He landed at Cotonsport Garoua in Cameroon in 2007 after a brief assignment in China.

He led Cotonsport to a number of championship victories as manager and then became the technical director of the club’s academy. After a short break-up with the Cotonsport management he returned as a Manager, a position he held until his appointment to the Lion’s Den.

Cameroon’s football legend, Roger Milla, does not believe winning national championships with Cotonsport is enough to make Lavagne a good coach for the Lions. Some Cameroonians think the Frenchman is a light-weight with regards to the calibre of players Cameroon has (many of whom play for top clubs in Europe).

The Frenchman told national radio that he would prove his worth on the field. His supporters highlight his understanding of the mentality of Cameroonian players and the politics that goes on in the national team. Big names like Paul Le Guen, Arthur Jorge and Clemente did not have this knowledge which explains their faliure, it is argued.

Cameroon’s most successful expatriate coaches have generally been unknown prior to their arrival in the country, according to a Cameroon football official we spoke to this afternoon.

Claude Leroy, who led the Lions to victory in 1988 at the Africa Cup of Nations; Pierre Lechantre who did the same in 2000 and Valery Nepomniachi,who was in-charge when the Lions reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990; had little pedigree before they landed in Cameroon, he explained.

WHAT ABOUT NDTOUNGOU

Yet, several TV pundits and newspaper columnists believe that the job should have been handed to Martin Ndtoungou (Lavagne’s deputy) who  is more experienced in managing national teams.

Ndtoungou was Winfried Schaffer’s assistant in 2003 when the Lions reached the finals of the Confederations Cup in France. He is a three-time winner  (as assistant in 1999 and 2003 and as head coach in 2007) of the Gold Medal at the All Africa Games with the U-23 national squad. He won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2000 as Jean Paul Akono’s assistant and led the U-23 squad to the quarter-finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

This year he was in-charge of the Junior Lions (U-20) team that finished second in the African Youth Championships and led them to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Columbia.

He knows almost all the players who are vying for a place in the national team because he has been their trainer at youth or senior level. Why Ndtoungou accepted to be an assistant  is a mystery to many.

The 53-year-old told national radio that he discussed with Lavagne, the Cameroon Football Federation and the Ministry of Sport and decided to put a hold on his personal ambitions (to be head coach) for the good of Cameroon football.

The football official we spoke to said this was Cameroon’s form of a Jurgen Klinsman and Joachim Loew tandem as Germany operated between 2004 and the end of the 2006 World Cup.

“Loew was clearly more experienced and tactically stronger but Klinsmann had that punch and determination to make a name that uplifted the Germans,” the official who did not want to be named  said.

“We hope that would happen for us and by the way it is an interim appointment which means the door isn’t closed,” the official added.

Whatever people’s personal views, Denis Lavagne is now in-charge. Hopefully, Cameroonian sports reporters and pundits would switch from debates over race and the nationality of the coach to discuss his tactics and concept of football.

Is he a defensive or attack minded coach? Does he prefer 4-4-2; 4-2-3-1;4-3-3; 3-3-1-3; 3-4-3 or 4-5-1?  Does he prefer his teams to play direct football or does he insist on construction from the back with short-passes in tight spaces?

Last year the media forgot about these things when Clemente was named only to become surprised and disgusted over the Spaniard’s ultra-defensive approach whereas that was the man’s identity – known to all specialists.

Cameroon knew they were not going to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) even if they defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All they wanted was a win to end the qualifiers with pride; which they did by beating the DRC 3-2 in Kinshasa on Friday.

Very little noise was made before the game. Even Paul Biya who so often presents the team as an example for the country’s youth to emulate, didn’t include them in his campaign speeches in the run up to Sunday’s Presidential Election.

Anyway, that was when the Lions were truly Indomitable and won most of the times. In reality,  though, it is now that the Indomitable Lions are really epitomising Cameroon: a country with great potential, talented human resources (at home and abroad) but lacking leadership and infested by bad governance. (We’ll come to that further down this post).

Return to 4-3-3

Cameroon were missing a flurry of players including  Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Amgwa, Joel Matip  who are out injured. As a result coach Javier Clemente played with a defence line which had never played together .

Enoh Eyong who is normally a midfielder had to start at right-back, Sebastien Bassong partnered with Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence for the first time since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October  last year in Garoua; and Gaetan Bong held his role at leftback as was the case in the past two games.

Clemente opted for a midfield trio in which Eric Djemba was the holding midfielder infront of the back four; while Landry Ngeumo and Alex Song worked the channels. The latter was so advanced in the first half that he had a hand in Eto’o’s equaliser (1-1) and hit the cross-bar after a beautiful give-and-go with Eto’o a few moments later.

But the team looked disjointed on several occasions and Djemba was a weak link as in his defensive role. He was heavy and got beaten for pace most times the  Congolese started a fast counter-attack.

This exposed the centre-backs and added pressure on Enoh who was playing for the very first time at right-back. Bong was just on an off day and many fans on internet forums questioned why the coach had not called Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

All the Cameroonian players seemed to have problems with the artificial turf used for the game but this alone could not explain the number of poor passes in the first half and the misses by the attackers.

Mystery-man Adongcho

Mbuta Andongcho scores for Cameroon but has no club?

Moukandjo Bile who was playing wide on the right was particularly wasteful with the opportunities he had. Eto’o and Eric Choupo-Moting often interchanged roles as central striker and wide left forward and on several ocassions they sliced the Congolese but made a bad final pass.

It was only after Clemente substituted Djemba (replaced by Mbuta Adongcho) and switched formation to a flexible 4-2-1-3  (4-2-3-1) in the second half that cam,eroon seemed to control the game. By then DRC were leading 2-1 and had even managed to miss a penalty. The game was as tight as the scoreline.

Cameroon finally equalised through Adongcho who poked in a ball headed down by Nkoulou. Adongcho was again involved in the winning goal holding the the ball long enough to see that Choupo-Moting (who had started the move) got into a scoring position before passing the ball.

Adongcho is quite a mystery. I don’t know where he actually plays his football. Cameroon media say he is clubless and is struggling to get a move to Rumania. However, he seems to score every time he is given his chance to play.

The win must have been a relief for the players but they would certainly have many regrets. With the array of talent in the squad, it’s a shame that they are not going to be at the AFCON.

Bad Governance

This is down to bad management and leadership from sports officials in Cameroon and some of the senior players in the squad.

Cameroon’s sports authorities decided to recruit as head-coach, a Spaniard who stays in Spain and only flies-in when there is a game at hand. He seemingly has a pre-planned list of players that he picks regardless of whether they are in forme or even playing football at all.

These same authorities failed to deal with the inter-personal clashes that are said to have ruined the teams World Cup. They made an unofficial ban on some players, particularly Alex Song, only to realise when Cameroon was already limping, that these players were vital.

Bickering between Eto’o and Song poisoned the dressing room and left the team appearing on soap opera columns rather than on sports pages.

But how could fans expect a team operating in a dysfunctional set-up fraught with bad-governance  to perform well.

Hey! This is Cameroon – a country where a dead man was appointed as a as the head of a Division and the ruling party could appoint a dead man into its central committee. Why should a coach not name players who have no clubs in the national team?

Cameroon players have a spirit that pushes them to want to survive. It is the same spirit that is in the hawkers on the streets of Yaounde, the benskineurs (motorbike taxi riders) in Douala, Limbe and Bamenda and the high school graduate selling telephone top-up cards in Buea.

But there comes a time when even the fighting spirit can’t get you anywhere when there is dis-organisation and the absence of visionary leadership.

It happened in the post-1990 World Cup era and Cameroon failed to qualify for the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. It has happened again and they are out of the 2012 edition. But, shall they  ever learn?

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

Cameroon’s starting line-up for Saturday afternoon’s game against Mauritius has been released with Javier Clemente giving a first competitive start for the U.S.-based winger Mbuta Adongcho.

Idris Carlos Kameni (GK); Benoit Angbwa (RB) – Nicolas Nkoulou (CB)-Aurelien Chedjou (CB) – Gaetan Bong (LB); Eric Djemba Djemba (CM) -Alexandre Song (CM); Henri Bedimo (WL) -Matthew Adongcho (WR)- Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (FW) –Samuel Eto’o (ST).

Cameroon needs to score goals. They have been unable to score  in a competitive fixture in almost a year. The last time they scored and/or won a game was in their 3-1 defeat of  Mauritius in September last year.

Cameroon media seem to think  coach Javier Clemente has decided on a 4-4-2 to end this goal scoring drought. I suspect the team will pan out as a  4-2-3-1 on the pitch as was the case against Senegal in Yaounde.

The 4-2-3-1 formation gives them reliability in defence (with 2 central midfielders + back 4) and flexibility in attack (with three attacking player behind the main striker).

TACTICS

To make the formation even more attacking – the coaches could recommend a greater contribution from the full-backs in support of the high wide midfielders to offer more width.  That was  not the case against Senegal. Song and Djemba may be nominally defensive midfielders but they have shown in their clubs that they have the intelligience and technique to surge forward. They would be required to be more involved in attack.

Playing as a 4-2-3-1 balances the team and the numbers in midfield allow the team to play for possession well, often with numbers up, especially against an opponent that is likely to play five men in midfield.

Mauritius are not travelling to Yaounde with a realistic hope of beating Cameroon. Mauritius would seek to keep things tight at the back and concede as few goals as possible. Last year, they played a very defensive 4-5-1 against Cameroon and would certainly reappear in that formation. Their plan being to sit deep, defend and if possible counter-attack.

Cameroon on the other hand need to score. Score to regain confidence in themselves; score to prove that there is some relative improvement in their out-put; score to get the fans behind them again; score as many goals as possible to keep their slim hope of qualification going.

TEAM SELECTION

A few things to note about Clemente’s choices.

1. Sebastien Bassong has fallen down the pecking order. In Stephane  Mbia’s absence, the coach has opted for Chedjou as Nkoulou’s centre-back partner. Chedjou has been playing more regularly for his professional club  than Bassong. Hopefully, the versatile Lille player (he can also play in midfield) would wipe out the  souvenir of an unsettled player who scored an own-goal at the Africa Cup of Nations when he was fielded as a central defender for Cameroon.

2. In midfield, Clemente decided to drop Landry N’Guemo and Enoh Eyong, preferring Alexandre Song and Eric Djemba who have not played with the team for a very long while. Hopefully, their experience gets them to instantly click with their teammates.

3. In attack, Clemente called or recalled several attackers but he seems to have preferred the people he knows. He thus plays Bedimo (a leftback at his club) in a more attacking role. He also chose to play Adongcho ahead of the crowd of Europe based forwards in the camp. Adongcho is a natural wide player that the staff discovered during a special selection camp. He scored in a friendly against Macedonia. The coaches have since kept him in the squad despite media reports that he might not be playing regular football in America.

Goodluck to Clemente and his team and see you after the game for a tactical analysis.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) not picked while his club mate Sebastien Bassong (R) is in Cameroon squad

Cameroon’s head coach Javier Clemente has named Edgar Sali (Monaco) and Joel Matip (Shalke 04) in a 23-man squad, that does not include Tottenham’s  Assou-Ekotto, to face Mauritius in Yaounde next month.

The 18-year-old Sali was named the player of the tournament at the African Youth Championships this year but was unable to join his teammates for the U-20 World Cup in Columbia after he signed for French Ligue 2 side Monaco in July.

He is used as a wide midfielder for the Junior Lions although he has the potential to become a forward going central midfield dynamo.

Twenty-year-old Joel Matip, has not played for Cameroon since he appeared as a substitute in a friendly against Macedonia. This hasn’t gone down well with many Cameroon football fans who watch Matip in midfield or central defence for his German Club. He reached the semi-finals of the European Champions League with Shalke 04 this year.

WHO’S IN?

Cameroon’s Spanish-born manager  handed a first call-up to Leonie Kweuke, a striker who plays for Sparta Prague. Henri Bienvenu Tsama (Young Boys Berne), who appeared for the Lions in a friendly against Poland last year is given a second chance to prove his worth.

Midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba (Odense, Denmark) and France-based forward Alo’o Efoulou (AS Nancy)  have also been recalled. Djemba has not featured for Cameroon since 2009 while Efoulou is picked  for the first time since the Africa Cup of Nations in 2010.

Meanwhile Alexandre Song (Arsenal) is expected to make his full come-back for the Lions after a one-year hiatus.

ASSOU-EKOTTO

However, Clemente has no place in his squad for Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The Spurs left-back has been left out for disciplinary reasons, the assistant coach Francois Omam Biyick said on a local TV station.

“The problem with Assou-Ekotto started before the game against Senegal when we held a friendly against Macedonia. He was called to camp but he did not come and nobody knew where he was. The coach tried Gaetan Bong and was satisfied,” Omam is quoted as saying.

There was an uproar in March when Assou-Ekotto didn’t make the squad to face Senegal in Dakar and the staff was forced to later recall him. He was among Cameroon’s best performers in that game.But he did not turn-up for the return-leg although he had been named in the team.

He was summoned to a Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) disciplinary hearing to explain his absence but he didn’t appear in person.

Omam said if the final decision was his to make he would pick Assou-Ekotto because he is among Cameroon’s very best at the moment.

WHO’s OUT?

Charles Itandje dropped by Clemente ahead of Mauritius Game

The other high profile absentee is Achille Webo, the former Majorca forward who has moved to Turkey.

Clemente admires Webo but dropped him to the bench in Yaounde against Senegal. After promising displays by the youngsters fielded in that match maybe the Spaniard now understands why  Webo wasn’t such a big hit among the fans.

The former Liverpool keeper Charles Itandje  (cf photo) has also  been dropped and replaced by the young  Jules Goda.

Stephane Mbia (Marseille) and Vincent Aboubakar (Valencienne) are injured and out of contention for a place in the squad.

West Bromwich Albion’s Somen Tchoyi may feel slighted by the coaches though, given the fine form he has shown as a versatile forward for the team in the early days of the 2011/2012 English Premier League.

Here’s the complete list as published on the FECAFOOT website:

1. Idriss Carlos Kameni, RCD Espanyol – Spain

2. Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

3. Jules Goda, Portimonense – Portugal

4. Benoit Angbwa, FK Anzhi Makhachkala – Russia

5. Nicolas Nkoulou, Olympique Marseille – France

6. Sebastien Bassong, Tottenham Hotspurs – England

7. Gaetan Bong, FC Valenciennes – France

8. Eyong Takang Enoh, AFC Ajax Amsterdam – Holland

9. Aurelien Chedjou, Lille OSC – France

10. Eric Djemba Djemba, OB Odense – Denmark

11. Henri Bedimo, Montpellier – France

12. Landry Nguemo, Girondins de Bordeaux – France

13. Alexandre Song, Arsenal – England

14. Andongcho Mathew Mbuta, Chrystal Palace -USA

15. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, FSV Mainz 05 – Germany

16. Benjamin Moukandjo, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

17. Samuel Eto’o, FK Anzhi Makhachkala – Russia

18. Ngako Deutcha Duvalois, Sable FC de Batie – Cameroun

19. Joel Matip, Schalke 04 – Germany

20. Paul Alo’o Efoulou, AS Nancy – Lorraine – France

21. Bienvenu Ntsama, Young Boys – Switzerland

22. Edgar Salli, AS Monaco – France

23. Leonard Kweuke, AC Sparta Prague – Czech Republic