Tag Archive: nations cup


I have not watched Cameroon train and the media have largely focused on side-events such as the tense relationship between Alex Song and Samuel Eto’o – which makes it hard to discuss coach Javier Clemente’s plans for Saturday.

Nevertheless, the Spaniard promised a more offensive game. Does that mean he would change his personnel to accommodate more attack-minded players than in Dakar?

A few reports have suggested that he is planning a 4-4-2 with Eto’o and Webo as the strikers, while the young, Monaco based forward, Benjamin Moukandjo (or Valenciene striker Vincent Aboubakar) would be fielded on the right flank. Unfortunately, the reports have not stated if Henri Bedimo (who plays left-back at Lens) would continue as left winger.

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

If Clemente has effectively opted for 4-4-2 it would mean a greater use of the wings to stretch the game but it would also require the wide men to put-in inch-perfect crosses and have the ability to take their markers in one-on-one dribbles à la Valencia (Manchester United) to create space and allow the forwards to take suitable positions.

With only Webo as a good header of the ball against a Senegalese defence of very tall and physical players, banging ill-timed high crosses would be a fruitless strategy.

That formation would mean one-to-one battles in the midfield as opposed to the Dakar game while the Cameroon full-backs will be bereft of the protection from and extra midfielder. This would expose them to the trickery and pace of the Senegalese wingers (who are actually attackers).

THREE-MAN MIDFIELD

Moreover, this would not solve the key problem that Cameroon faced in Dakar which was lack of penetration from the centre. Nguemo was supposed to act like a box to box mid-fielder to support Webo but it didn’t quite work out.  Eto’o often had to retreat into central midfield positions to link up play. It’s a shame that Clemente did not retain Somen Tchoyi. He could have done this very well.

Nonetheless, I suspect Clemente would keep the shape of the team close to what we saw in Dakar  and play in a sort of 4-1-2-3. Sadly, Assou-Ekotto who adds an extra attacking dimension from full-back is an injury doubt.

I have not seen them practice so I can’t say for sure what coach’s choices would be. Using the 4-1-2-3 formation, here’s how I would field the players currently at his disposal against Senegal to ensure defensive balance, penetration from midfield as well as width and incisiveness from the attack:

A back four of: Benoit Amgwa (RB) – Nicolas Nkoulou (CB) – Sebastien Bassong (CB) – Gaetan Bong (LB).  Stephane Mbia (CM) to sit in-front of the back-four; Aurelien Chedjou (CM) and Landry Nguemo (CM) working box-to-box. A forward trio of: Benjamin Moukandjo (right) Samuel Eto’o (centre) and Maxim Choupo-Moting (left). The front-men can always switch positions.

Choupo-Moting and Moukandjo regularly play as wingers in their clubs (though they are strikers) and are technically good to cut-in from the flanks into the centre of attack (à la Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Di Maria). They are tactically aware enough to drop deep to form  a midfield 5 once Cameroon loses possession.

Nguemo, Mbia and Chedjou play more defensive roles in their clubs but in the past (especially at youth levels) they played in advanced positions for the national teams. They have the energy to do the box-to-box roles that is required of midfielders in such a formation to give thrust and penetration to attacks like Essien, Lampard used to do in Mourinho’s Chelsea.

The system is built on speed and power and thus accommodates the type of players Cameroon currently possesses when played in the Chelsea way rather than the Barcelona format which lays emphasis on technique.

But, I am not the coach. It’s down to Javier Clemente.

Here is part 1 of this preview that focuses on Senegal…

Advertisements

Whoever becomes Cameroon’s next head coach will have to watch a video of the Indomitable Lions’ 3-0 defeat of Poland. It wasn’t that spectacular. It wasn’t completely smooth. It wasn’t against the African Champions, talk less of the World Champions. It was simply the sweet taste of victory after a run of 10 games without a win.

What did Jacques Songo’o (interim coach) do that hadn’t been done since January 2010?

Surely, there must have been something different.

1. The team played in a 4-4-2 formation using old-fashioned wingers. Henri Bedimo on the  left  and Marcel Ndjeng on the right  drove Cameroon’s game forward alongside the over-lapping Benoit Assou-Ekotto (left-back) in particular, and Augustin Binya (right-back).

Many pundits claim this formation is dying or dead. They argue that most teams play with 3 to 5 midfielders who would out-number any central midfield of just two men. Variations of 4-3-3, such as 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1 are now en vogue (Paul Le Guen should be smiling)! Nonetheless, Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United appeared in a 4-4-2 and beat a Chelsea side that was using 4-3-3 at the Community Shield (3-1 the scoreline).

Most managers say a formation alone is never really the decider. One needs the right men to make those formations work to create the necessary offensive and defensive moves.

2. There was cover/movement on the flanks. The presence of these “wingers” provided cover for the full-backs in the event of a quick counter-attack. At the World Cup in South Africa, once Assou-Ekotto ,the most daring of the full-backs, surged forward there was no-one to take the space he had left behind him. The opposing teams simply had to hoof the ball over to his vacant position to create dangerous counter-offensives.

With Bedimo ahead of  Assou-Ekotto, the left back didn’t need to make risky forays into the opposing camp.When he did Bedimo and/or Sebastien Bassong (centre-back) shifted into his zone. Ndjeng, Binya and Nicolas Nkoulou did the same on the right.

3. The virtues of team-work and solidarity on display. If the Lions dominated play for long spells  it was not due to the change in formation alone.  The players and different compartments (defence, midfield attack) put in a shift for each other. Football is a team sport. If a unit does not move to replace another part which is in difficulty, there are holes everywhere for the opponent to penetrate.

Aurelien Chedjou displayed such abnegation to plug the holes created by his mates. He confirmed that he is a midfielder and not a centre-back or full-back. His strengths being technique (seen in his two assists for Eto’o), positional awareness and ability to intercept opposition passes without reckless tackles.

4. Eto’o played as a central striker, scored and was subbed. The skipper played alongside Maxim Choupo-Moting in a front two that needs more games together. However, his brace was  typical goal-poacher’s art. He has scored in every game since he was re-positioned as a central striker. He put his experience to use by drifting to the left-flank and dropping deep into midfield positions to create opportunities for his attacking mates.  When he looked tired he was substituted. Oh yes, it can be done.

5. Improved set-pieces. Cameroon scored from a corner kick. It’s so rare it can make news headlines. There was designated specialist so, we didn’t see 7 different persons taking corners in a single match. Marcel Ndjeng showed great quality at this task. The balls  reached useful areas in the 18-yard unlike in the past. Free-kicks also need such discipline in the days ahead.

6. Hunger. This team wanted to win or at least prove that it wasn’t useless. The way the substitutes Bienvenue Tsama and Vincent Aboubacar stormed into the game is testimony to this. Tsama scored upon his second touch but the goal was disallowed for an offside position. Aboubacar slotted his first for the national team less than 10 minutes after coming-in for Eto’o. Is  such motivation and desire to impress down to a Jacques Songo’o effect alone? The Lions were simply hungry.

6. Consistency to build confidence  and partnerships. Songo’o chose to build confidence and understanding between Nkoulou and Bassong  at the centre of defence. I believe it’s the best way of solidifying what I consider the country’s best centre-back pairing.  They are comfortable with the ball, read the game well, hardly foul recklessly and they’re complementary. One of Paul Le Guen’s weaknesses was his constant tinkering. He hardly played with the same team for two games.

With Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia suspended for the game against Mauritius  Songo’o could have tested the Bikey-Bassong partnership from the start. When Bikey came on as a substitute he was heavy and out of pace. Maybe he’s rusty because the season is barely starting. He could also be low on confidence after dropping in the pecking order. In another game and against tougher opponents his fouls and wrong passes would have cost Cameroon severely.

7. The seeds Le Guen sowed have begun to germinate under Songo’o.   Apart from Eto’o, Makoun, Binya and Bikey who were established Lions prior to Le Guen’s tenure (and Bienvenue Tsama called-up for the first time by Songo’o), eleven players who appeared in that game were either handed their first cap and/or given regular starting places  under the French-born manager.

His legacy could be seen on the pitch against Poland. Le Guen chose to dare and give a chance to a new generation players in a country where gerontocracy rules supreme and leaders revel in their glories passed instead of paving the way for future conquests.

He ultimately failed to deliver a trophy or a World Cup quarter-final berth. He led the team to a terrible streak of poor results. He was stubborn, intractable, reportedly cost a fortune and he admitted that his casting for the World Cup was poor.

Many are surely glad to see the back of him, others don’t want his name pronounced again but let’s give him credit where it is due. He planted seeds called Aboubacar, Choupo-Moting, Enoh, Bong, Bedimo, Ndjeng, Mandjeck, Chedjou, Nkoulou, Bassong, Ndy Assembe that have begun to sprout.

As Jacques Songo’o, a Cameroon international from 1983 to 2002 (including two years as skipper), led this pride of  Lions to victory in Poland, souvenirs of the disappointing displays in Angola and South Africa crossed my mind. Things could have been different. Will they ever be different in Cameroon?

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.”

The Sparrow-hawks of Togo will not fly at the 27th African Cup of Nations, according to a report by the BBC on Saturday 9 January.

The Togolese delegation to the competition was ambushed as it crossed the border into the Angolan enclave of Cabinda from Congo-Brazzaville where it had been camping ahead of the competition.

Togo captain, and Manchester City striker, Emmanuel Adebayor said on Friday many players wanted to go home.

He told BBC Afrique: “It’s a football game, it’s one of the biggest tournaments in Africa and a lot of people would love to be in our position but I don’t think anybody would be prepared to give their life.

“If I am alive I can still play football tomorrow and in one year maybe even another Cup of Nations but I am not ready to pass away now,” he said.