Tag Archive: u-20 lions


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

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

Cameroon Football Fans

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

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

Successful Tactical Switch

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

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

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

Eyewitnesses say after the game the team exploded with joy.

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

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

And he’s right.

Could be better

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

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

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

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

Learn how to score

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

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

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

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

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

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The Flying Eagles of Nigeria beat the Junior Lions of Cameroon 3-2 after extra-time to lift the Africa Youth Championship trophy on Sunday.

The winning goal was scored two minutes into prolongations after both teams had separated 2-2 following 90 minutes of football.

Nigeria had drawn first blood at the 74th minute when a rare error by Cameroon’s centre-back allowed  Nigerian striker Olanrewaju Kayode to beat  goalkeeper Jean Efala for the opening goal.

Kayode was to come back five minutes later to haunt Cameroon pushing goalkeeper Efala to foul him for a penalty that was scored by the tournament’s best goal scorer Uche Nwofor (4 goals).

The Lions’ never-say-die attitude  however got them back into contention for the title that has eluded them since 1995. Frank Ohandza shot from inside the box to reduce  the tally to 2-1 at the 82nd minute. Cotonsport Garoua’s Edgar Salli added a second at the 85th minute to take both teams to extra-time.

Cameroon, who were playing their second prolongation in the competition, lost concentration in the opening minutes of this phase of the game and conceded a goal scored by substitute Terry Enyoh.

It is the second consecutive U-20 Cup final that Cameroon’s Junior Lions are losing. They were beaten 2-0 by Ghana two years ago in Rwanda.

We’ll be back with an overview of the cubs’ tournament.

Cameroon’s U-20  team qualified for the final of the African Youth Championships after they beat Egypt 4-2 in post-match penalty kicks in South Africa on Thursday.  The Lions will  face Nigeria’s Flying Eagles on Sunday to determine who suceeds Ghana as the champions of Africa.

After 120 minutes of tactically intense play, neither Cameroon’s junior Lions nor their Egyptian opponents managed to score a goal thus leaving the semi-final to be decided on a penalty shoot-out.  Egypt failed to score their first and second spot-kicks while Cameroon scored four of theirs.

The Egyptians were furious at the referee and his assistants, who ruled on two occasions that Cameroonian players  should re-take their shots which had been stopped by Egypt’s goalkeeper. The keeper was adjudged to have stepped forward from his line before Nyantchou and Yaya Banana kicked and missed. Both players scored on their separate second-takes.

Egypt has been Cameroon’s nemesis for years but the cubs’  head coach, Martin Ndtoungou Mpile,  had promised  to stun the north Africans who had beaten his side thrice in preparatory games ahead of this tournament.

“The Egyptian coach will be surprised on Thursday because we played the test matches without eight of our regular players. He has to know that preparation is one thing and the competition itself is another ball game,” Ndtoungou Mpile said.

Cameroon will be playing the final for the second time in a row. They were finalists in Rwanda in 2009 where they were beaten by Ghana that  went on to win the U-20 World Cup.

The Lions will be clashing with opponents they know well – since they beat the Nigerians 1-0 in a group game last week. But the Nigerians have since obtained two victories against the Gambia and Mali (semi-final) on a similar 2-0 score. They have one of the tournament’s best goal scorers -Uche Nwofor – with three goals.

Cameroon, on the other hand, find it  hard to score goals. They have scored only three goals since the competition started but they have the meanest defence (just one goal conceded).

Their disciplined, solid and very compact style was on display again in that semi-final  against Egypt.

The Egyptians rarely found space between the Cameroonian lines and all 10 outfield Lions fought for every ball – harrying their opponents like Real Madrid did in the first-half of the Copa del Rey final last Wednesday.

Central midfielders Nyantchou and Nkom were bustling with energy and their passing to the wide players was swift. But the final ball to the attackers was usually poor. The strikers Haman and Ohandza took their defensive tasks very seriously but sadly failed to make things work offensively.

Let’s see what happens in the final now. At least, Ndtoungou is on record that he plans to win it.

“We have come here to play. Our first objective of reaching the semi-finals has been achieved. Now we will focus on winning the semis and the finals,” he had told reporters before the match.

Cameroon finished top of their Africa Youth Championship group with seven points after scoring a late goal to draw 1-1 with Ghana on Sunday.

Midfielder Emmanuel Ewangue Mbongo headed home for the junior Indomitable Lions  after the Ghanaian goalkeeper completely flapped his outing to stop an Edgar Salli corner in the dying seconds of the game (92nd minute).

On Thursday Cameroon will play against Egypt (second in pool A), while the Flying Eagles of Nigeria who finished second in Cameroon’s pool B (with six points) will clash with the Mali’s young Eagles (who topped pool A). These four teams will represent Africa in July’s FIFA Youth Championships (U-20 World Cup) in Columbia.

What are the lessons Cameroon may have learned from the game against Ghana?

Lesson 1: Cameroon’s benchwarmers can stop Ghana…

The Ghanaians, who are the reigning Africa U-20 Champions, scored in the 21st minute of play but the draw means they finish with only 2 points, cannot make it to the semi-finals and will not defend their World Championship crown.

The fact that the Ghanaians were unable to beat what was essentially a second-string Cameroon team speaks volumes about Ghana’s  below average performance at this tournament.

Cameroon’s head coach, Martin Ndtoungou Mpile,  had made whole-sale changes in order to rest some of the key players to who had qualified the squad to the semi-finals (and by the same token the World Cup) by beating the Gambia and Nigeria on an identical 1-0 scoreline.

Eric Ngana replaced Efala Ngonguep as the goalkeeper while Yann Songo’o, Mbongo, Armand Ela Ken and Alain Bruno Bati started for the first time in the midfield. Christian Toko Edimo and Joel Tageu who had been bit-part players in the other games had an opportunity to prove their worth up-front. At the defence, Ghislain Mvom who had played against the Gambia and Nigeria as a centre-back started at a right-back while Vincent Bikala slotted in the centre of defence to partner Yaya Banana.

Lesson 2: But Cameroon’s benchwarmers are not great…

Honestly, the changes didn’t click. The team seemed out of its depth particularly in the first-half where the Ghanaians ran the show. Cameroon’s passing was really poor between and there was no coordination between the various parts. This was exemplified by repeated confusion between the centre-backs Yaya Banana and Bikala and their rather shaky goalkeeper.

Cameroon stepped-up their game once Ndtoungou Mpile decided to substitute Alain Bati bringing on Edgar Salli at the start of the second-half. Yet, the passing at midfield only improved when the coach brought in Nyantchou of Panthere Bangante and Jacques Haman of Cotonsport Garoua.

From the 70th minute Cameroon piled pressure on the Ghanaians who scarcely crossed their half of the field and resorted to fouls. It seemed the arrival of the regular starters and news of Nigeria’s curtain-raiser in their game against the Gambia had sparked them into action.

Seeing that Cameroon only clicked when Salli, Haman and Nyantchou came on, it is clear that most of the players who were tested on Sunday will return to their bench-warming positions if the Lions have to make any impact in the semi-finals next week (not to mention the World Cup in July).

Lesson 3: Cameroon still has to work on scoring goals

The junior Lions created more chances towards the end of the encounter but as in the previous games their finishing continued to be wasteful.  The coaches would have to work on precision and target shooting before the next games.

The centre-forward Tageu was a real let-down. His midfielders served him with several through-balls but he was unable to make contact or proper use, often looking tired and heavy. Haman troubled the Ghanaian defence when he came on but it wasn’t uncommon to see him blazing wide ever-so-often.

Fortunately, the coaches had tweaked the formation from 4-4-2 to a 4-1-2-3 to ensure that Cameroon pressed high-up the pitch and pushed the Ghanaians to commit several fouls and concede about half a dozen corner-kicks.

Cameroon scored from one of these corner-kicks. It is the second Cameroonian goal to come from a set-piece. The Lions have scored only three (3) goals so far!!! It may not be worrying (for now) because of the sturdy defence and midfield but something needs to be done (for the future) about scoring goals.