Tag Archive: Volker Finke


Samuel Eto’o has announced that he is retiring from international football barely a few days after he was left out of a new look Cameroon squad and replaced as captain ahead of two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.

“I wish to inform you that I hereby put an end to my international career. On this occasion, I wish to thank all Africans in particular and all my fans to around for their love and support,” a statement on the player’s Official Facebook page said on Thursday.

Eto’o who  joined English Premiership side Everton on a free transfer this week made his debut for Cameroon in an international friendly against Costa Rica in 1997. He was the youngest player to feature the World Cup in France in 1998. His big break on the international scene, however, came in the 2000 Africa Nations Cup when he starred alongside Patrick Mboma in the forward line of Cameroon’s title winning

Samuel Eto'o at a press conference in Dakar

Samuel Eto’o has said his final goodbye to the Indomitable Lions?

team.

He was part of the team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney in 2000 and went on to win a second Africa Cup in a row (Cameroon’s fourth) in 2002.

While he remains Cameroon’s all time best scorer at national team level, he continually faced criticism that despite his individual success (he is a four times African Player of the Year) and the trophies he won at club level in Europe (he won several Spanish league titles with FC Barcelona, two European Champions League trophies with the Catalan giants before adding a third with the Italian side Inter Milan) Cameroon stagnated at international level.

Troublesome Genius

He was often accused of fomenting trouble in the Cameroon dressing room, clashing with his team-mates, coaches and the country’s football authorities. Some suggested that he was the main protagonist in the row over World Cup participation premiums which led to Cameroon players refusing to board a flight to the World Cup in Brazil.

Although the Cameroon coach Volker Finke attributed his decision to leave Eto’o out of the squad to rejuvenation of the squad and also because the player had no club (at the time the squad was named), several Insiders felt the striker was paying the price for his role in that pre-World Cup farce and the disastrous campaign that followed.

Eto’o had in the past been suspended from the team for leading a player strike in 2012 when the Lions refused to play a friendly against Algeria over a row related to participation premiums.

Notwithstanding his rumored negative spots, Eto’o remained a real talisman for the Cameroon team and possibly the country’s most talented player at the moment. He will be missed by Cameroon, not for the goals he scored but more for his playmaking ability which were more apparent when he played for the national side.

In fact, he was rarely used as a central striker by most coaches from 2004, often deployed to the left or right of a three-man attack or as a playmaker behind the main striker.

It is the second time that Eto’o looks set to abandon the national colors. The difference this time though is that he made a formal announcement which wasn’t the case in late 2013 when it was rumored that he quit the selection.

He will be replaced as national team captain by Stephane Mbia who was appointed by the Cameroon minister for sport on Monday. Eric Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar were named vice-captains.

Meanwhile, veteran Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun has also announced his retirement from international football. He had also been left out of the squad as Cameroon tries to rebuild after two humiliating World Cup participations in 2010 and 2014 and failing to qualify for the last two Africa. Cup of Nations tournaments.

If Cameroon want to stay in the World Cup they must beat Croatia tonight and they would have to do that without their Captain Samuel Eto’o who is struggling with a knee problem. Head coach Volker Finke has picked his men for the battle of Manaus in what looks like 4-3-3.

Charles Itandje returns as goalkeeper; Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou would apparently remain as a the centre back partnership. Stephane Mbia drops from midfield to field the right back position while Benoit Assou-Ekotto stays at left back.

Joel Matip comes in to play as the sweeper in front of the defence. Many had expected to see the Shalke man in central defence with Nkoulou but it seems Finke wants to use his passing in midfield. The German-born manager’s midfield stalwarts: Enoh Eyong and Alex Song return. Will they have the creativity Cameroon needs in midfield to link defense and attack?

The mouth watering prospect, though, will be the opportunity to see the future Cameroon attack line. For the first time in a World Cup game since 2002, Samuel Eto’o will not be featuring in the Lions’ starting line up. In his place, the young Vincent Aboubakar has the task of leading the forward line. Flanking the former Cotonsport Garoua striker we’ll have the talented Eric Maxim. Choupo Moting and Benjamin Moukandjo.

No matter the players selected, what’s most important is whether Finke will allow the team to go forward rather than wait for their opponents.

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.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon lost 1-2 to Paraguay in a pre-World Cup friendly on Thursday. Here are few things they may have learned from the game.

  1. Possession is Useless Without Penetration and Goals : Cameroon dominated possession in this game. The first half ended with the Lions having 65 percent of the ball. It was good to see the team work the ball from the back to the front, prioritising short passes instead of long hopeful balls to the front. For all of their possession, the Lions created  few scoring chances. The team lacked penetration. The build-up was slow, it allowed the Paraguayans to settle in a very defensive 4-4-2 which was tough to break down.  Cameroon lacked creativity to turn the possession to scoring chances. Ball possession is useless without pace, creativity, penetration and goals. Paraguay did not keep the ball for long periods but when they got it, they hit the Lions through swift counter-attacking raids.  They looked like scoring each time they got forward. The Lions must learn to translate domination into goal-scoring success.
  2. Choupo Moting seen during an Indomitable Lions' training camp i Senegal in March 2011

    Choupo Moting seen during an Indomitable Lions’ training camp i Senegal in March 2011

    Choupo-Moting Should be a Starter in Brazil: Football is a team sport but  individual talent never hides. The young Mainz forward, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, is clearly the most gifted player in the Cameroon squad after Samuel Eto’o. He’s got a good first touch, dribbles with elegance, has an eye for a defence splitting pass and…he can score. In the 4-3-3 formation preferred by Cameroon’s head coach – Choupo-Moting can play as a wide  forward (left or right) or as the main striker. He is even better as the withdrawn forward behind the main striker in a 4-2-3-1.  He changed the game when coach Volker Finke brought him on as a substitute.  His determination earned him a goal (he also scored in Cameroon’s 2-0 win over Macedonia). He could have scored a brace versus Paraguay – if only Mohammadou Idrissou had not decided to take (then miss) the penalty Cameroon earned in the final minutes of the match.

  3. Idrissou Shouldn’t be in this Squad: No, it’s not about the missed penalty. Really, it isn’t. Anybody can miss a penalty. It is about the whole 90 minutes in which Idrissou contrived to show the world that he shouldn’t be part of this 28-man squad. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a 23-man squad to the World Cup. I know there are qualities that coaches see in players that fans can’t perceive, but really not this time. When he was younger and could run up and down the left flank – supporting the defence and injecting pace – even I used to attempt explanations about his role in the team. That pace has left him. He hasn’t got great technique  (never did) and he absolutely does nothing as a striker when playing for Cameroon. Volker Finke has to drop him.
  4. Who Else Earned a Place in Finke’s ‘to drop list’?: If the head coach had only that game against Paraguay to make a decision on his 23-man squad, then Raoul-Cedric Loe should be packing his bags to catch the next flight home.  He looked edgy, rash, too quick to tackle and often making the wrong pass. On the positive side, though, he dropped very nicely into a centre-back position to cover Matip or Nkoulou when they surged forward. He is young and has time to learn the ropes of his defensive midfield trade. Unfortunately, there are just too many players ahead of him in the pecking order for that role.
  5. Can Salli Sneak into the 23 for Brazil?:  In the first 45-minutes of the game, Edgar Salli looked out of his depth. He had the responsibility of providing a creative spark to a rather defensive midfield formation. It didn’t quite happen in that first half and he was looking like one of those to fall into Finke’s ‘to drop list’. Things changed in the second segment of the game. The boy came alive. He dribbled and took on opponents with confidence. He looked like the player who was the star performer in Cameroon’s under-20 squad that lost in the final of the African Cup in 2011. At the end of the game against Paraguay, Finke said he liked what he had seen from Salli. Is that enough to take the boy to Brazil?

Eric Djemba Djemba has joined Scottish Premier League side St. Mirren until the end of the season, hoping that regular football may improve his chances for a spot in Cameroon’s World Cup squad, the club announced on its website on Wednesday.

“He is a top drawer player who does a power of work in the defensive midfield area,” said St Mirren manager Danny Lennon. “He wants regular football to ensure he goes to the World Cup with Cameroon this summer and we are happy to give him that platform,” Lennon told the club’s website.

The 32-year-old midfielder has not been part of the Indomitable Lions set up for about two years but seemingly trusts in his capacity to bounce back. He will face stiff competition for the defensive midfield role where Cameroon has more than a dozen regular (and younger) contenders including Schalke’s Joel Matip, FC Barcelona’s Alex Song, among others.

A decade ago, Djemba Djemba was one of Cameroon’s promising talents rising from Kadji Sports Academy near Douala to FC Nantes in France where he was recruited by Manchester United in 2003. He was seen at the time as a potential replacement for then United captain Roy Keane but the Cameroonian failed to live up to expectation, making only 13 league starts in 35 appearances for Manchester United.

“I was not being [selected] in many games and it was difficult,” Djemba-Djemba said in a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper. “Roy Keane came back from injury, I wanted to play games and I had a talk with the gaffer (Alex Ferguson). He said: ‘No problem. If you have [another] team and you want to continue to play, that’s not a problem.'”

He opted for a transfer to Aston Villa as he opportunities for a starting place in the team dwindled. This was followed by a downward spiral that took him to Burnley, then to Qatar SC before a resurgence at Danish side Odense.

Before joining St. Mirren the one-time captain of Cameroon’s under-23 national team was at Partizan Belgrade. The Serbian club released him after he made just14 appearances since he joined last summer.

Djemba Djemba’s bid to convince Volker Finke, Cameroon’s German born trainer, may start if he plays for St. Mirren in Sunday’s Scottish Cup match against Dundee United.

St. Mirren Football Club which is ninth (9th) in the Scottish Premier League table, is based in Paisley, Renfrewshire, and was founded in 1877.

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.”

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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 Indomitable Lions play their first competitive fixture under new manager, Volker Finke, on Sunday against the Sparrow-hawks of Togo. The German-born trainer has been working with his squad in Yaoundé since they returned from Kiev where they played a goalless tie with hosts Ukraine in an international friendly on 2 June.

Here are three (3) aspects of Finke’s football philosophy that we should be watching out for come Sunday afternoon:

  1. A High Pressing Game

Volker Finke is known in Germany as one of the leading lights of the high pressing game which he instigated and sustained during his 16-year tenure at SC Frieburg. A lot of Germany’s current crop of coaches including Jurgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund, Joachim Löw (the German national team coach) and Ralf Rangnick are recognised as following in Finke’s footsteps.

British football writer Jonathan Wilson wrote recently in the Guardian about Finke’s approach:

At Freiburg, Finke became noted as a pioneer of pressing in Germany – which was oddly late to adopt the practice – and achieved notable success with a small budget as a result. Whether he will have the time to instil a similar style of play at Cameroon is doubtful, appealing though the idea of them becoming the Chile of Africa may be, but he will at least be tactically imaginative.

Finke is so keen about high pressing, quick passing and movement that he has specific  training drills as he described here during his time as coach at Urawa Diamonds in Japan:

That was training for players to learn how to approach various types of situation during the game. For example, when players lose their ball, types of approaches the team should take and in what timing they should start giving pressure change depending on where they lose their ball such as center or side. As such, I decided that the team lost their ball where the player whose name I called was standing. Players then had to figure out how they give pressure as a team and who takes the initial approach. It was training taking real match situations into consideration. It might have seemed as a new type of training. By having more and more of these kinds of training sessions, I believe that the team will be able to improve to perfection level….

He continued:

…I can say that pressing does not necessary start from a player who is closest to the ball. This is because there are many different types of situations during matches. In some cases, no pressing is done or other players start the pressing. Being able to make the right kind of move at the right timing regardless whether there is a ball or not is part of the talent. I consider this as one of the exceptional abilities. Even when players train themselves seriously for several months with a very professional attitude, some may not be able to get it completely right. Making the right decision according to the given situation and play for the team is one of the important elements as well as a talent. When a player is truly gifted, he often has an excellent strategic mind as well.

2. Fluid Tactical Options

I didn’t watch the Cameroon’s game against Ukraine last week and had to rely on match reports from on-line Cameronian media. Each one seems to have seen their own formation. There were those who thought Finke played a 4-3-3 while others said the team played a 4-2-3-1 formation.  We may come to expect more of that from the Lions Den. Rather than sticking to a single plan Finke works by adjusting the formation to the demands of the game and opposition he faces.  The key aspect is to build carefully and break with speed and accuracy.

Finke once said:

It’s boring to switch flanks and knock the ball from one wing to the other. We build through the middle, where there is little space. You play three or four short passes to lure the defense into what they think is the danger zone. And then you suddenly open up the game over the flanks – that’s what is really dangerous.

The key for him is playing beautiful attacking football as reported in this post in The Hard Tackle:

Finke helped a lowly regarded team with limited quality resources to qualify for Bundesliga’s top tier and managed them to finish third in the next season with his version of concept football – a thoroughly drilled, collective movement at a high tempo. During that time Freiburg were known as Breisgau Brazilians for their wonderfully pleasing and technically superior style of football that saw them pass the ball both artfully and precisely.

3. Focus on the Team and not Individuals:

Cameroon football forums are full of discussions about the impact the  absence of the Lions’ captain and talisman Samuel Eto’o may have on the team. The level of anxiety seems to have shot-up following the draw against Ukraine in which the young strikers reportedly failed to impress. Finke believes in team work rather than individuals. It is up to those who would be given the chance to play in the absence of Eto’o to give it their best shot as a team for Cameroon. Here’s a popular quote from Finke that could help calm the nerves of some fans:

“I don’t want team leaders. That’s a line of thinking that buries other players’ strengths. Our playing system does not depend on the individual.”

Will Finke’s ideals work with Cameroon – a team so used to playing deep and soaking up pressure to strike via counter-attacks? Does he have the players to match his philosophy and work ethic?  It would be too much to expect magic on Sunday but hopefully we could have a glimpse of the new Cameroon.