Tag Archive: soccer


Cameroon’s Sebastien Bassong says despite perennial off-the-field issues, the Indomitable Lions hope to perform well, especially with Samuel Eto’o in the mix, at the soccer World Cup that kicks-off next June in Brazil.

The centre-back who captains Norwich in the English Premier League told a British TV network that his national team captain Eto’o, often accused of being divisive, must be part of the World Cup squad and will come good.

“He’s got to go to the World Cup. We will find a way to co-habit. Even if some people don’t like the fact that he is going to be there, we all want the same thing: Cameroon to do well,” Bassong is quoted as saying in excerpts of the TV interview published in The Guardian newspaper.

“Samuel is a huge player for us, a huge character in the country – the most famous person after the president. Our pressure compared to him is nothing. But he’s born to handle that,” the 27-year-old Bassong said.

Bassong partnered Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence for Cameroon at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but has since fallen behind in the pecking order due to a combination of injuries and form issues. With his regular starts and strong displays for Norwich, many observers expect him to return to the Lions’ den to fight for place in the World Cup squad.

That would be another opportunity to team up with his friend and colleague Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Both men played for Tottenham Hotspur (and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon) before the quest for regular football led Bassong to Norwich while Assou-Ekotto is on loan at Queen’s Park Rangers in the English second tier league.

Sebastien Bassong (R) and his pal Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) while on national team duty with Cameroon

Sebastien Bassong (R) and his pal Benoit Assou-Ekotto (L) while on national team duty with Cameroon

Bassong shares hilarious anecdotes about Assou-Ekotto who is famous for saying publicly that he is playing football because it’s a money-making job.

“For him, it’s a job. I played with Benni at Spurs and in the national team. He used to not even know who we were playing against. Sometimes he would say about opponents or team-mates in the national team when the squad was changing, ‘Bass, who’s that?’, ” Bassong said.

“The best one I remember about Benni was when we were having the team photo at Tottenham and he arrived late….Rafael van der Vaart had just signed and I was next to him. So Benni was shaking hands and when he got to Rafa, he shook his hand, stood still and looked at him. And then he asked me in French: ‘Who’s that?’ I said: ‘It’s Van der Vaart.’

“Benni said: ‘OK, nice to meet you.’ Harry [Redknapp, the Spurs manager] had to explain. He told Rafa: ‘Don’t worry, he doesn’t know who you are, he doesn’t know anything about football, but he’s a great player.'”

Assou-Ekotto’s tells it as he sees it and doesn’t fakes things as is common in football circles which surely explains why the deeply religious Bassong rates him as a friend.

“I believe in God and read the Bible everyday,” Bassong says. “There are some days when your faith goes down a little bit, for whatever reason, but it’s always there. It’s a big part of my life. Football is a different world. The way I see football … there is loads of fake. You’re not living in the real life. For me, the real life will start when I stop playing football.”


Read the full story in The Guardian  here. The excerpts are based on an interview with BT Sport which is the UK’s newest sports TV service, with three channels showing a host of sport, including live top tier action from the Barclays Premier League, with 38 exclusively live matches.

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Finke Wants Cameroon to Play Collective Football

Barely five months to the World Cup in Brazil, Volker Finke, Cameroon’s head coach has been talking about what he hopes to achieve with the Indomitable Lions at the tournament. He spoke to fifa.com about instilling the importance of collective and possession football in the Indomitable Lions as they seek to improve on their dismal World Cup 2010 outing in South Africa.

Here are some excepts:

UNITY 

“The team twice failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations and did very badly at the 2010 World Cup, finishing with zero points,” Finke told FIFA.com. “They were very divided. Within the squad we’ve spoken together a great deal in the last few months. Thanks to that we’ve arrived at a point where, together with the captain Samuel Eto’o, a very good team spirit has developed. That’s been the key to our success.”

COLLECTIVE

“If you want to win in football the team has to maintain its concentration at all times and play well collectively,” said Finke… “That’s vital and it’s what we work on every day that we’re together. Only then is it possible to get good results.”

Image

REBUILDING

“The fact that Cameroon is a country where everyone loves football and where everyone remembers that in the 70s, 80s, 90s and right up until 2002 it was one of Africa’s footballing heavyweights means that expectations rise very quickly,” said Finke. “The reality is however, that we’re reconstructing and need to build things up again. Qualifying for the World Cup was an important part of that.”

You can read the full article here

Comment

All of these statements seem to be in keeping with Finke’s philosophy which Gef’s Football Club outlined in June last year on the eve of the German’s first competitive game in-charge of the four times African Champions. Finke is all about a high pressing game, fluid tactics formations and a focus on the team and not individuals.

At the time this blog wondered if a team so used to playing deep and soaking up pressure to strike via counter-attacks would be able to morph into a Barcelona type pressing team? Well, they didn’t have to become Barcelona. He simply chose the people who were ready to follow his instructions and style regardless of whether they played regular football in their teams or fans fancied them or not. It meant a rather difficult start with defeat to Togo (though the result was overturned by FIFA), goalless draws in Congo and Tunisia, a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Libya before a well deserved 4-1 thrashing of Tunisia in Yaounde in November.

But surely even Finke realises that a lot of work remains to be done.

Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o scored twice for his Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in a 3-1 defeat of Lokomotiv Moscow which takes Anzhi to fifth place in the league with 66 points and keeps their dreams of playing in European club tournaments next season.

The fifth spot gives Anzhi the right to play the UEFA Europa league next season but the club could, mathematically, still qualify for the UEFA Champions League, as only 3 points separate them from Dinamo Moscow that is second on the standings with 69 points, with three games left to play  this season.

Anzhi, currently managed by Dutch tactician Guus Hiddink, struggled in the beginning of the final phase of the Russian league and were unable to directly compete for the title that was clinched this weekend by Zenit Petersburg.

Hiddink said his team had been fine-tuning their attacking actions for weeks and Saturday’s victory was the outcome of their homework, Fifa.com reported.

Anzhi’s captain, Eto’o, seems to have benefitted from all that training as he was involved in all of Anzhi’s three goals (Click here to watch goals) described below by Fifa.com:

“Anzhi clinched the lead in the 25th minute, when Lokomotiv defender Taras Burlak sent the ball into his own net in an attempt to clear Samuel Eto’o’s right-handed cross. Six minutes later Lokomotiv captain Denis Glushakov levelled firing home from just inside the area after an Anzhi mix-up in defence.

But Eto’o netted Anzhi’s winning goal in the 64th minute, sending the ball into the net with a sharp-angled shot despite the physical presence of two Lokomotiv defenders. The Cameroonian star rounded off the scoring in injury time with his 11th goal this season, with a close-range shot.”

Cameroon’s women have won All-Africa Games gold for the first time by beating Ghana 1-0 in the women’s football final at Maputo’s national stadium while the men’s (U-23) team won Bronze at the tournament.

Madeleine Mani Ngono headed in a cross in the 56th minute in the Ladies’ final that was played in front of a very small crowd, the BBC reported on Saturday.

“We’re very pleased, but Nigeria are still the best team in Africa,” said Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu.

The victory is Cameroon’s greatest achievement in women’s football, the BBC said (full match report here).

Meanwhile Cameroon’s men’s team beat Senegal 5-4 after post-match penalty-kicks in the third place play-off game. Both teams were tied at 1-1 after normal time, Cafonline reported.

Cameroon won this tournament thrice in a row (1999, 2003 and 2007) but their hegemony ended this year when Ghana defeated them 1-0 at the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Cameroon’s Joel Matip scored on Sunday (21 August) for his club in the German Bundesliga but that hasn’t made headlines in a weekend where the name Cameroon has mainly been associated to Samuel Eto’o’s big money move to Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkal.

Eto’o will certainly keep making the headlines in the coming week, as he finally signs the contract that would see him earn 20 million euros and become the world’s best-paid footballer. But we prefer to focus on the Cameroon internationals who have been in action across Europe.

Eto'o (9), Bedimo (12), Chedjou (14) are mentioned in this week's review

German Bundesliga:

Joel Matip contributed to Shalke 04’s fantastic come-back from two goals down to beat Mainz 4-2 on Sunday. Matip started as one of the two central midfielders in Shalke’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He scored the third goal for Shalke at the 81st minute of play. Cameroon’s head coach Javier Clemente who has consistently refused to select Matip says the youngster is not mobile enough and is more for the future than the present.

Eric Maxim Choupo Moting came on as a second half substitute for Mainz but he was not able to repeat last week’s performance where he scored for his new club. However, Cameroon national team coaches should be happy to see him having regular game time.

Marcel Ndjeng started and played 83 minutes for Augusburg in their 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim. Ndjeng has not been called up for the Lions since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October 2010.

France: 

Nicolas Nkoulou played the full 90 minutes at the heart of Olympic Marseille’s defence in their goalless draw with AS St.Etienne. He was calm and assured and made some good long passes to his strike partners.

Henri Bedimo started at leftback for Montpellier when they beat Rennes 4-0 to go top of the French Ligue 1 standings. Georges Mandjeck started in central midfield for Rennes and played the whole game. Mandjeck last featured for the Lions as a second-half substitute against Senegal in Dakar last March.

Moukandjo Bile started his first game for Nancy this weekend after a move from Monaco at the start of the week. Nancy lost 1-2 to Sochaux and Moukandjo was substituted after an hour. He was replaced by another Cameroonian – Alo’o Efoulou who has not been selected for the Lions for about 18 months.

Lille beat Caen 2-1 with Aurelien Chedjou playing at right-back for the French Champions. Chedjou has been playing in central midfield for Cameroon since the World Cup in South Africa but normally plays as a central defender for Lille. For how long would he be deployed at right-back and how would that affect his game?

Landry Nguemo started as the sole holding midfielder in Bordeaux’s diamond formation as they drew 1-1 with Auxerre. Gaetan Bong played at left-back for Valencienne in their 1-2 defeat away to Paris St. Germain.

Switzerland: 

Henri Bienvenue Tsama came on at half-time but could not save his Young Boys Berne side from a 2-0 defeat in the hands of FC Thun. Chris Mbondi, U-20 international, came on as a 49th minute substitute for FC Sion as they beat Lausanne Sport 2-0.

England: 

Somen Tchoyi started again as a second striker for West Bromwich Albion against Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday. The Cameroonian worked very hard but his team were beaten 2-1 by their West London hosts. Tchoyi was substituted after 75 minutes.

George Elokobi came on as a very late substitute (90th minute) for Wolverhampton Wanderers as they beat Fulham 2-0.

Aston Villa defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-1 but Cameroon’s Jean Makoun watched from the bench throughout the game. Alex Song started his 3 match ban after stamping on Joey Barton last week and was thus absent from Arsenal’s 0-2 defeat to Liverpool.

This Monday Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong’s Tottenham Hotspur travel to Manchester to face the Premier League Champions. (We’ll update once the game is over).

[An audio review of Cameroonian performances in Europe is available of you click here]

Cameroon’s head coach Javier Selected has picked a team with more attack minded players to start against Senegal in Yaounde this Saturday.

He has included three youngsters: Aboubakar Vincent, Benjamin Moukandjo and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting. They will support Samuel Eto’o while he dropped Aurelien Chedjou and Henri Bedimo to the bench.

Gaetan Bong replaces Assou-Ekotto at left back while the rest of the defence remains unchanged with Amgwa Benoit (RB) and the duo Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia as centre-backs.

Enoh Eyong and Landry Nguemo will play in the midle of the pack.

Here is the team: Kameni ; Angbwa – Mbia – Nkoulou – Bong ; Nguemo – Eyong – Moukandjo -Choupo – Aboubakar ; Eto’o.

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…

*Adds news of Assou-Ekotto and Matip’s selection

George Elokobi, the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender, has been included in Cameroon’s squad to face Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. He is part of three-man additional list that includes Joel Matip and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The list was published late Friday in Yaounde.

Elokobi recently told the British media about his deep wish to be called up to represent his native land has seen his efforts on the field pay-off.

He replaces the injured Gaetan Bong who was on the initial 23-man team summoned to camp Javier Clemente, the Spain-born head coach of Cameroon.

Many observers were surprised that Clemente had picked Bong in the first place, as it was well known that the defender  has been out of action for a month.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham Hotspur, who is probably Cameroon’s best left-back at the moment is also called up to defend his national colours.

A national team insider told Gef’s Football Club that Clemente is punishing Assou-Ekotto for perceived indiscipline but it now seems public and government pressure has swayed the Spaniard (see separate story on Gef’s Football Club).

Roger Milla, Cameroon’s football legend, had taken offence at Clemente’s decision to leave out some players who have been performing in their clubs on the grounds of discipline.

“Those who have compiled this list (team selection) do not like Cameroon. You cannot suspend players and claim to have the best team… If you want the best team, you call everyone,” Milla is quoted as saying.

However, as suggested by a poster on Gef’s Football Club, it is about time Cameroonians stop focusing on who’s absent and concentrate on supporting those included in the squad.

“Those who have been called up should take the challenge and make Cameroonians proud by bringing home all 3 points,” Ensah Bertrand said in a comment on a strory about Elokobi’s fortitude.

The man born in Mamfe, joins vice-captain Eyong Enoh and Mbuta Adongcho to bring to three the number of Cameroonians from the English-speaking part of the country who are part of the expedition to Dakar.

More tit-bits on Senegal v Cameroon to follow…

Fecafoot confirms 22 for Poland game

Cameroon’s foootball governing body (Fecafoot), on Monday, officially released the squad of 22 players to travel to Poland for an international friendly on August 11, 2010.

The list published on the Fecafoot website is exactly the same as the one which was disclosed by the Polish Football Federation, as reported here over the weekend.

It confirms that Idriss Kameni, Alex Song, Achille Emana, Geremi Njitap, Idrissou Mohammadou, Souleymanou Hamidou, Achille Webo have been axed.

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.