Tag Archive: roger milla


The Indomitable Lions. Photo credit: Olivier N'Seke

The Indomitable Lions. Photo credit: Olivier N’Seke

It’s time for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to talk on the pitch. In a few hours they will be facing the El Tri of Mexico. What should fans expect from the current pack of Lions?

Tactics: 4-5-1 or 4-3-3
Head coach Volker Finke has mainly used a 4-3-3 formation since he took over. However, there have been games where the Lions played more as a 4-2-3-1 with a double-pivot in central midfield and, in at least one instance their shape was close to a 4-4-2 diamond.

I expect the Lions to show up as a tight unit in a 4-3-3 when attacking and 4-5-1 once they lose possession of the ball. The latter would be the default posture taken by the team which will be very defensive in outlook.

The central midfield trio will look to charge down on the Mexicans, with a lot of energy to disrupt their movement. When in 4-3-3 mode the forwards will bear down on Mexico’s central defensive trio.

When the ball is lost the wide forwards will drop into midfield to block the flanks and serve as the first line of defense. They will not hesitate to drop very deep if necessary and break with speed once the Mexican attack is contained.

Cameroon played a high defensive line in all of its pre-World Cup warm-up matches. The idea is to keep the opposing attackers closer to the midfield than in the Lions’ danger area. The disadvantage though, is that if the defenders are not tactically disciplined or one member loses concentration, the impact can be devastating. How they manage to switch-on  immediately the game starts in each half; and their  This, concentration at the end of the halves, are points to watch. These have been the team’s weaknesses in the recent past.

As much as Cameroon will depend on counter-attacks, Mexico must also be wary of the Lions’ passing game forged by coach Finke. It is an interesting blend reminiscent of the 1990 generation that reached the quarter-finals. The player profiles and tactics are similar and they may stun Mexico as they did Diego Maradona’s Argentina.

Back to 1990

In 1990, Cameroon often started in a 4-5-1 formation. Emmanuel Kunde sat in front of the back 4. He intercepted attacks but also had the vision to make forward passes. In the current team, that role has been handed to Alex Song, who not only wears the number six jersey like Kunde but also has the ability to play in central defence and in midfield. Should Song be unable to start, Joel Matip would step into the Kunde shoes.

Two other players supported gave the midfield steel and penetration in 1990: Emile Mbouh and Andre Kana Biyick. The former was the grafter – who would stop at nothing to get the ball, with an ability to play an energetic game for 90 -minutes. That role in the current squad is held by Eyong Enoh Takang.  He is the one player who has started and completed every game since Volker Finke took over in May 2013. His is an ungrateful task of fixing the errors of his teammates without looking like the hero. Cameroon’s success depends on him being on song.

The Kana Biyick role will surely be handed to Stephane Mbia. Kana Biyick could play almost anywhere. He was a good centre-back but hated to play in that position. He could play as a box-to-box midfielder in a double pivot but could also feature as a support striker when called upon to do so. Since he got into Cameroon’s senior squad, Stephane Mbia has played as right-back, centre-back, holding midfielder, relay midfielder and support striker.

Down the flanks in 1990, Cameroon had two of its greatest artistes: Louis Paul Mfede (on the left) and Cyrille Makanaky (on the right). Both could also play as traditional number 10s or support striker if given the opportunity.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will be the current team’s Mfede. A great dribbler who can pass well and score goals. He will keep opposing full-backs in their camp. Cameroon’s success against Mexico and Croatia will depend on his form.

Benjamin Moukandjo has dreadlocks like Makanaky and he also has the pace and tenacity of the 1990 hero. As observed against Germany, Moukandjo can defend and storm forward like a speed train. He also misses a lot of goals like Makanaky – who rarely scored for Cameroon.

Cameroon in 1990 started games with a single out and out forward: Omam Biyick. He scored only one goal in that competition but it was an unforgetable goal (against Argentina). Omam, like Samuel Eto’o today, knew how to create openings for other forwards. Many often judged him in relation to the goals he scored (like they do with Eto’o) but it was his creativity that was one of his biggest assets.

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Each time the Indomitable Lions qualify for a tournament, Cameroonian singers and musicians get to work composing songs to the glory of the team.

The FIFA World Cup 2014 has inspired many of these artistes. Using multiple genres including Cameroonian Makossa and Bikutsi through to jazz-fusion, they sing: ‘Allez les Lions’ or ‘Go Lions’ and seem to believe that they will win. Here’s a list of six songs are released this year to celebrate the Lions:

1. Cameroun Wake Up – Co-written and performed by Conti Billong and Imke Mueller; featuring Manu Dibango: There’s a touch of Makossa as well as Jazz and funk to this tune. It is one of my favourites.

2. On Va Gagner (We’re Going to Win) by Armand Laklass : is a hot Makossa/Couper Decaller fusion. The sort of song that will get people dancing in clubs across Cameroon but also in other parts of West/Central Africa.

3. Venez Celebrer (let’s party/celebrate) by The 4 : captures the current spirit of popular music by young Cameroonians . It’s a blend of hip hop and local beats sung in French, English, Pidgin English and Camfranglais. This gives a flavour of the country’s linguistic diversity.

4. Allez Les Lions (Go Lions) by Askia featuring J Milly: also draws from what youngsters enjoy listening to.

5. In the Game by Duc Z featuring Stanley Enow : Produced by Orange mobile phone network which is one of the ‘Top Sponsors’ of the Indomitable Lions. Beyond the subtle marketing objective, it is worth listening to; especially as it features one of Cameroon’s top hip hop/rap talents of the moment: Stanley Enow.

6. Pala Pala by Bikutsi songstress Mani Bella isn’t really a football song. However soccer fans have taken to the song’s beats to produce a video to celebrate the Indomitable Lions.

There are several more songs that I couldn’t feature in this list. The question that comes to mind, though, is what happens after the competition. There are some songs to the glory of the Indomitable Lions that have stood the test of time.

One of them is Marie Arcangello’s Allez Allez Les Lions (it’s English version is Forward Forward Lions) released in 1990 ahead of the World Cup in Italy. It has basically become an anthem that is played just before National Anthem each time the Indomitable Lions play at the Yaounde stadium.

But most of the songs disappear especially after a poor showing by the team. Does anyone remember “Lions Indomptable” by Patou Bass in 2010?

Maybe these artistes should wait until the tournament is over to release a song. That way, if it is a successful campaign their song will remembered forever.

For instance, I continue to hear Pepe Kalle’s ‘Roger Milla’ played on radio stations and at parties around South Sudan. The song was an ode to the Lions by a Congolese artiste after the team reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in 1990.

That’s a plan!

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.

Samuel Eto'o in green

Cameroon’s national football team captain and star player, Samuel Eto’o, says he has had to re-think if he must participate in the World Cup after former Indomitable Lions striker, Roger Milla ,said Eto’o had yet to prove his worth for his country and lacks discipline.

Roger Milla, who scored 4 goals in Cameroon’s run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990, said in an interview on Thursday that Eto’o had given much to his clubs Barcelona and Inter Milan but had never achieved anything with Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.

” What did he (Milla) achieve? ” Eto’o is quoted by the French news agency as saying in an interview on French TV channel Canal+Sport on Friday.  “Finally you wonder whether these are really my countrymen. Are these really my people? Is it worth it to go to the World Cup?”, Eto’o added in a series of rhetorical questions.

It is not the first time that Milla is harsh towards Eto’o in particular and the new generation of players in general before a crucial competition. Weeks before Cameroon’s decisive qualifying game against Morocco, Milla had accused Eto’o of being a nuisance in the national squad.

“He did not win the World Cup, they played quarter-finals and what a team it was! They had one the best teams with great players in each compartment.  The fact that they (Milla) enjoyed glory at the age 40 does not gives them right to talk (like that),” Eto’o said.

Many fans expressed fear that Milla’s comments could dent Cameroon’s preparation for the World Cup and Eto’o’s threats have proved that this might be the case in a context where the team’s stability and cohesion is uncertain.

The Inter Milan player had been given 8 days of holiday by the coach, Paul Le Guen, after a long season which saw him win a second treble – national league, national cup and European Champions League trophy – with Inter Milan.

CRISIS

The Indomitable Lions are supposed to play against Slovakia in a warm up match on Saturday (29 May) in Klagenfurt, Austria after which the coach plans to name the 23-man squad to travel to South Africa for the World Cup.

Confusion from Milla’s statements which another Cameroonian football legend, Joseph Antoine Bell, described as “inelegant” only add to a series of set-backs to the team’s preparations.

In fact, the team played a slack and scoreless friendly training match against Georgia on Tuesday and the coach is still unsure about the eligibility of two players, Maxim Choupo-Moting and Gaetan Bong, that he hopes to the take to the soccer tournament in June.

The players had represented Germany and France respectively at youth team level and need a FIFA waiver to compete for the homeland of the fathers. Media reports have suggested that Cameroon’s football federation (FECAFOOT) was late to start the administrative procedure to obtain the waiver.

Choupo Moting’s father (who is also a football agent) clearly explains (in French) in this audio clip how the federation officials fumbled with the procedure and reveals that the football’s world body will decide on the matter next week and expects the outcome to be favourable for Cameroon.

The FECAFOOT boss, Iya Mohamed, who promised that there would be a decision on the matter this Friday, would need to improve his association’s skills in negotiating complex issues. They have a test of their diplomatic skills  in the form of convincing Eto’o to down his boycott threats, get back to the fold and focus on success for Cameroon on African soil.

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.”