Tag Archive: world cup 2010


After Cameroon’s 2-2 draw with Germany in a friendly, Volker Finke, the head coach of the Indomitable Lions, has named the 23 players to defend the country’s colours at the soccer World Cup that kicks-off in Brazil next week.

All of the Cameroon players who started in the final qualifying game against Tunisia have made it into the final 23-man squad for Brazil 2014. Pic Credit: Olivier Nseke

All of the Cameroon players who started in the final qualifying game against Tunisia have made it into the final 23-man squad for Brazil 2014. Pic Credit: Olivier Nseke

Two players – Cedric Djeugoue and Loic Feudjou – who play in the  Cameroon’s  top league are included in the squad. Two other youngsters: Swiss-based Fabrice Olinga and and France-based Edgar Salli make it to Brazil.

Goalkeeper Ndy Assembe, defenders Jean-Armel Kana Biyick and Gaetan Bong; as well as midfielder Raoul Loe and attacker Mohammadou Idrissou were left out by the German trainer.

If fans generally expected that Idrissou and Loe would not be part of the final squad to fly to Brazil, it wasn’t so clear for the three others. Assembe, who was at the last World Cup, appeared to be the second choice keeper behind Charles Itandje but the coach preferred Loic Feudjou and Samy Ndjock as back-up goalies.

Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, the son of Andre Kana Biyick who played for Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup, seems to have lost his place due to a niggling injury that he carried throughout the training camp in Austria. Although it must also be said that the France-based player had lost his spot as Nicolas N’Koulou’s partner in the centre of defence since Finke took over in May 2013. The German often paired N’koulou and Aurelien Chedjou; and N’Koulou and Joel Matip in the last two games.

There were 3 candidates (Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Henri Bedimo and Gaetan Bong) for just 2 spots as left-back. Bong, who was at the World Cup in 2010, lost out to the man whose place he took four years ago. At the time, coach Paul Leguen surprisingly left out Bedimo who had been part of the qualifiers and played the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. Bedimo has had a great season at Lyon in France while Assou-Ekotto is quite an experienced hand in that position.

Here’s the full List:

Goalkeepers

Charles Itandje (Konyaspor/TUR)
Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor/TUR)
Loïc Feudjou (Coton Sport/CMR)

Defenders

Allan Nyom (Grenada/Spain)
Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas/TUR)
Cédric Djeugoue (Coton Sport/ CMR)
Aurélien Chedjou (Galatasaray/TUR)
Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille/FRA)
Henri Bedimo (Lyon/FRA)
Benoît Assou-Ekotto (QPR/England)

Midfielders

Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor/TUR)
Jean II Makoun (Rennes/FRA)
Joel Matip (Schalke/Germany)
Stéphane Mbia (Sevilla/Spain)
Landry Nguémo (Bordeaux/FRA)
Alex Song (FC Barcelona/Spain)
Edgar Salli (Lens/FRA)

Forwards

Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea/England)
Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (Mainz/Germany)
Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy/FRA)
Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient/FRA)
Achille Webo (Fenerbahçe/TUR)
Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem/BEL)

Cameroon have won a friendly football tournament (LG Cup) after they defeated Morocco 4-2 during a penalty shoot-out. Both teams were tied 1-1 after regular play time and had to revert to penalties to have a winner as per the rules of the competition.

Denis Lavagne (left) and his assistant Ndtoungou Mpile (right) win first trophy but did they get their tactics right? (Photo by Linus Pascal Fouda, Team Press Officer)

Samuel Eto’o, Henri Bedimo, Dany Noukeu and Enoh Eyong scored their spot kicks for Cameroon while while Morocco missed two of theirs.

Cameroon may have won but Morocco were the better playing side for most of the 90 minutes (plus injury time). Their short passing was precise, with regular one-twos and give-and-go passes that ran the Cameroon midfield ragged.

The Atlas Lions (Morocco) also showed they had the capacity to switch their game, adding more penetration that took Cameroon’s midfield off-guard. This put the centrebacks: Georges Mandjeck (preferred to Joel Matip) and Dany Noukeu on the back-foot

The Indomitable Lions were playing a 4-3-3 where the fullbacks were expected to bomb forward to create width and support the attackers but Morocco played so high-up and at such high tempo that, Bernard Angbwa (right-back) and Henri Bedimo (Left-back) were hemmed-in for most of the encounter.

FIGHTING SPIRIT OVER TECHNIQUE

Two games in two days may have stretched the Indomitable Lions physically. They were forced (by a deluge of injuries) to start with the same that played against Sudan on Friday. However, in a very Cameroonian never-say-die spirit (which had been missing for a while) the team refused to lose.

By the 75th minute when Eto’o scored the curtain-raiser, the Moroccans had obtained 8 corner-kicks to Cameroon’s none. The Moroccans also squandered several goal scoring opportunities, often shooting wide but also denied by the impressive N’Dy Assembe in Cameroon’s goal.

Towards the last 15 minutes of the first-half and during a 15-minute spell before and after Eto’o’s opener Cameroon, however regained the upper-hand. Enoh, Landry N’Geumo and Alex Song fighting for every ball and blocking every space in midfield.

The technique from young Vincent Aboubakar and substitutes Edgar Salli and Jacques Zoua temporarily shifted the balance of power. Were it not for for a really poor final shot from Jean Makoun after a superb combination, Cameroon would have been 2-nil up before the Moroccans equalised.

The Olympiakos player who is not a first choice for Cameroon anymore surely lost the little sympathy fans still have for him.

RETURN OF THE 4-3-3 DEBATE

It is not unusual for Cameroon to win games and tourneys without being the most pleasing side to watch. The Junior Lions typified this Cameroonian quality during the African Youth Championships and the U-20 World Cup tournaments this year.

Nonetheless Cameroon fans have already started complaining about the 4-3-3 formation that coach Denis Lavagne is using. (Does that sound familiar Mr Le Guen?) Many have suggested on online forums that Cameroon hasn’t got the players for that system so the team should return to a  4-4-2  formation that will provide natural width.

I don’t really fancy Cameron playing a system that hinges on wide men. They do not have the players that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Harry Rednapp’s Tottenham have got. Does Cameroon have Nani, Ashley Young, Gareth Bale and Lennon type players?

The country produces mostly players who feature in the centre of the pitch (centre-backs, central midfielders and strikers). Only the list of centre-backs and defensive midfielders could make up a squad:  Nicolas Nkoulou, Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Sebastien Bassong, Yaya Banana, Dany Noukeu, Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, Andre Bikey, Joel Matip, Alex Song, Eyong Enoh, Landry N’geumo, etc.

A DIAMOND COMPROMISE

Indomitable Lions coaches have resorted to playing systems where they can adapt some of the strikers as wide forwards (but not wingers) or playmakers or given creative roles to otherwise defensive midfielders.

This has usually meant playing formations such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 (a.k.a Christmas Tree) and 4-3-3. When they have tried playing 4-4-2, they have been forced to use fullbacks (such as Henri Bedimo) as wingers, drawing the ire of the same fans and media calling for a return to ‘simple ways’.

A compromise between playing 4-4-2 and fitting the kind of players at the disposal of Cameroon’s coaches would be to play a diamond midfield: a holding midfielder, a playmaker behind two strikers and 2 shufflers running the channels in midfield (playing narrow) but not wingers.

Although, I’d advise the managers to do things as they deem right for the team, they might want to try a diamond midfield against a relatively weaker opponent. Isn’t it one of  Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s (deputy head coach) favourite formations?

However, there’d be little width except the fullbacks join in (requiring a lot of defensive and attacking duties for them). The game would be overly dependent on the playmaker being able to click creatively but also supporting the defence.

Cameroon knew they were not going to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) even if they defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All they wanted was a win to end the qualifiers with pride; which they did by beating the DRC 3-2 in Kinshasa on Friday.

Very little noise was made before the game. Even Paul Biya who so often presents the team as an example for the country’s youth to emulate, didn’t include them in his campaign speeches in the run up to Sunday’s Presidential Election.

Anyway, that was when the Lions were truly Indomitable and won most of the times. In reality,  though, it is now that the Indomitable Lions are really epitomising Cameroon: a country with great potential, talented human resources (at home and abroad) but lacking leadership and infested by bad governance. (We’ll come to that further down this post).

Return to 4-3-3

Cameroon were missing a flurry of players including  Stephane Mbia, Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Amgwa, Joel Matip  who are out injured. As a result coach Javier Clemente played with a defence line which had never played together .

Enoh Eyong who is normally a midfielder had to start at right-back, Sebastien Bassong partnered with Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence for the first time since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October  last year in Garoua; and Gaetan Bong held his role at leftback as was the case in the past two games.

Clemente opted for a midfield trio in which Eric Djemba was the holding midfielder infront of the back four; while Landry Ngeumo and Alex Song worked the channels. The latter was so advanced in the first half that he had a hand in Eto’o’s equaliser (1-1) and hit the cross-bar after a beautiful give-and-go with Eto’o a few moments later.

But the team looked disjointed on several occasions and Djemba was a weak link as in his defensive role. He was heavy and got beaten for pace most times the  Congolese started a fast counter-attack.

This exposed the centre-backs and added pressure on Enoh who was playing for the very first time at right-back. Bong was just on an off day and many fans on internet forums questioned why the coach had not called Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

All the Cameroonian players seemed to have problems with the artificial turf used for the game but this alone could not explain the number of poor passes in the first half and the misses by the attackers.

Mystery-man Adongcho

Mbuta Andongcho scores for Cameroon but has no club?

Moukandjo Bile who was playing wide on the right was particularly wasteful with the opportunities he had. Eto’o and Eric Choupo-Moting often interchanged roles as central striker and wide left forward and on several ocassions they sliced the Congolese but made a bad final pass.

It was only after Clemente substituted Djemba (replaced by Mbuta Adongcho) and switched formation to a flexible 4-2-1-3  (4-2-3-1) in the second half that cam,eroon seemed to control the game. By then DRC were leading 2-1 and had even managed to miss a penalty. The game was as tight as the scoreline.

Cameroon finally equalised through Adongcho who poked in a ball headed down by Nkoulou. Adongcho was again involved in the winning goal holding the the ball long enough to see that Choupo-Moting (who had started the move) got into a scoring position before passing the ball.

Adongcho is quite a mystery. I don’t know where he actually plays his football. Cameroon media say he is clubless and is struggling to get a move to Rumania. However, he seems to score every time he is given his chance to play.

The win must have been a relief for the players but they would certainly have many regrets. With the array of talent in the squad, it’s a shame that they are not going to be at the AFCON.

Bad Governance

This is down to bad management and leadership from sports officials in Cameroon and some of the senior players in the squad.

Cameroon’s sports authorities decided to recruit as head-coach, a Spaniard who stays in Spain and only flies-in when there is a game at hand. He seemingly has a pre-planned list of players that he picks regardless of whether they are in forme or even playing football at all.

These same authorities failed to deal with the inter-personal clashes that are said to have ruined the teams World Cup. They made an unofficial ban on some players, particularly Alex Song, only to realise when Cameroon was already limping, that these players were vital.

Bickering between Eto’o and Song poisoned the dressing room and left the team appearing on soap opera columns rather than on sports pages.

But how could fans expect a team operating in a dysfunctional set-up fraught with bad-governance  to perform well.

Hey! This is Cameroon – a country where a dead man was appointed as a as the head of a Division and the ruling party could appoint a dead man into its central committee. Why should a coach not name players who have no clubs in the national team?

Cameroon players have a spirit that pushes them to want to survive. It is the same spirit that is in the hawkers on the streets of Yaounde, the benskineurs (motorbike taxi riders) in Douala, Limbe and Bamenda and the high school graduate selling telephone top-up cards in Buea.

But there comes a time when even the fighting spirit can’t get you anywhere when there is dis-organisation and the absence of visionary leadership.

It happened in the post-1990 World Cup era and Cameroon failed to qualify for the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. It has happened again and they are out of the 2012 edition. But, shall they  ever learn?

Javier Clemete, head coach of Cameroon at a press conference

It is now a year since Javier Clemente was appointed as head coach of the Cameroon national football team. As I prepared to post an assessment of his tenure this far, I found hidden beneath the drafts section of this blog, an article I had written last year as a preview of Clemente’s reign.

For several reasons including being busy with the work that (actually) earns me a living, I somehow forgot to click the publish button.

Apart from verifying if our predictions about Clemente were correct, it is only fair and honest that I post how I previewed his tactics and man-management upon his appointment  before any review of his time with the Indomitable Lions (hoping I don’t forget the review in my drafts!).

As written in August 2010:

On 4 September (2010), the island state of Mauritius will host the first pride of Lions under Javier Clemente’s mantle. The players were probably selected by his assistants but we would expect to see a touch of Clemente in terms of tactics and formations in that Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Some pundits think that under the Spaniard, Cameroon could play like the current Spanish national football team. That may be unlikely.

In his home country, Clemente is typically associated to  what Sid Lowe, a British journalist covering Spanish football, described as “defensive, devious and downright dirty football.”

His baseline strategy is to have two defensive midfielders in front of the centre-backs, operating deep and dispossessing the opposition. 

“His sides then hit the opposition on the break, if he has the right people,” says Phil Ball another Spanish football pundit. 

Clemente prefers players who cover spaces to maintain defensive balance and is supposedly fond of using defensive midfielders and centre-backs everywhere on the pitch.

With more than half of Cameroon’s Europe-based footballers being defensive midfielders, he surely has the implements he needs.

It might not be eye-catching at times, but it would often get the result. In his six years as Spain’s head coach he lost only 6 of the 62 games they played.

Considering that the Lions finished the World Cup without a single point (31st out of 32 teams), that they have conceded 23 goals in 13 matches (including a run of 10 games without a single win), maybe Cameroon football officials thought a man with such a history of repairing defensive leaks was the best bet to turn the tides.

SAVING DESPERATE LIONS

Cameroon media claimed that disorder and indiscipline in the Lions’ den (as usual) led to their woeful output in South Africa.  If the stories of bloated egos and clashes between players are a reality, it would be interesting to see how things work in a dressing room run by someone described as a “crass, tactless bully.”

He is said to be honest and direct to a fault, telling his players his mind and ready to pick a fight with anyone who thinks they are too big to toe the line.

My concern, however, is that authorities who were talking of long-term building, four year contracts, “no more quick-fix coaches,” etc seem to have ended up with a manager whose profile is that of man called up to rescue desperate teams that have dug themselves into a hole.

“People who have a problem, people who think that no one else can help, people who can find him,” is how Lowe described teams that hire Clemente.

“People like Athletic Bilbao, who called upon him when they were threatened by relegation in 2005-06 and saw him get a reaction, picking up 22 of the last 36 points to pull clear,” Sid Lowe wrote in the British newspaper, the Guardian.

How come FECAFOOT scouts didn’t spot Clemente in June 2009 when the Lions were in limbo requiring some emergency aid to qualify to the World Cup? Instead they hired Paul Le Guen, who ended up as a talent scout and long-term planner (bringing in many youngsters into the team).

“If you are struggling, leaking goals and are down on your confidence, the last thing you need is the arrival of a revolutionary young guru, with ambitious and complex new ideas,” Phil Ball wrote in an article for ESPN.

Who knows? Maybe Cameroon authorities were thinking along these lines when they hired Clemente.

Good decision-making, though, has hardly been their greatest asset. The performances of the Lions under Clemente will be the judge of their wisdom.

Samuel Eto’o missed a late penalty that would have given Cameroon victory over Senegal and keep the Central African nation’s slim hope of qualifying to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations alive. The game ended 0-0 and the Indomitable Lions look certain to miss the tournament to be hosted by their neighbours Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. But on a purely tactical perspective it was a promising display from Cameroon – their most attack-minded performance in a competitive match in a long while.

Cameroon’s head coach, Javier Clemente, kept his promise to send out a team focused on attacking its opponent from the start.  The team included Benjamin Moukandjo, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Samuel Eto’o who are all used as attackers in their clubs.

He organised them in a 4-2-3-1 formation (similar to the one used by Germany at the 2010 World Cup). Eto’o was the lone striker while the youngsters (named above) played as the “3” behind him often interchanging positions. The shape gave the team width and penetration as the front four took turns to become de facto striker, “wingers” (cutting inside) or drop as a supporting striker (linking midfield and attack) given that the trio (Moukandjo, Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting) are all capable of unpicking opposing defences with ease.

The result was constant pressure on the Senegalese team from the first to the last minute of play; in a way Cameroon last did only in the 2006 Cup of Nations under Arthur Jorge and the early days of Paul Le Guen’s reign.

There were over a dozen corner kicks for Cameroon; not less than a dozen free-kicks at the edge of the Senegalese 18-yard box; and 7 clear goal-scoring chances (several of them one-on-one with the goalkeeper).

Sadly, the finishing was poor. Many of the shots were hit straight at goalkeeper Coundoul (who was preferred to (Calamity) Khadim Ndiaye).

fans senegal

Is it all about victory now?

MOVEMENT

The Senegalese have lashed out at the referee, who was far from excellent and gave a rather soft penalty to Cameroon. But the referee cannot be blamed for their complete tameness. Amara Traore had opted for a 4-3-3 which had a front three of Mamadou Niang, Issiar Dia and Moussa Sow. His intention was to have an extra man in midfield as opposed to the away leg in Dakar.

Yet, they were over-run by the movement Cameroon’s midfield 5 (if one includes the threesome that was supporting the attack) particularly the Enoh Eyong Tarkang and Landry Nguemo duet. Enoh sat deep mainly protecting his centre-backs while Nguemo peppered the Senegalese with hardworking box-to-box play that supported the attacking scheme set-up by Clemente (Aurelien Chedjou who was surprisingly left on the bench as a result of this formation, came on as a second-half substitute for Nguemo and added that penetration that was lacking in Dakar, as well).

The Senegalese had only one shot on target and it was from an off-side position.

Cameroon’s keeper, Carlos Kameni, was practically not seen throughout the encounter while his defenders – Amgwa Ossomeyong (RB), Nicolas Nkoulou (CB), Stephane Mbia (CB), Gaetan Bong (LB) – were rarely troubled. The full-backs (Amgwa and Bong) shuttled back and forth on the flanks to add with while Mbia had several opportunities to score with a header from Cameroon’s numerous kicks – but he hit the ball wide on many occasions.

The pressure, movement, passing, free-kicks and possession driven play from back-to-front came to nil because Cameroon were unable to score. A few fans got so bitter after the game that they attacked cars parked outside the stadium and clashed with security forces who tried to protect the players. It pains when a team doesn’t win and nobody wants failure. But there were positive lessons in that game which could serve as a great guide.

PROMISE

Beyond Eto’o and the penalty he missed – Saturday’s game was another preview of a promising new generation of Indomitable Lions. With the average age of the starting eleven being 22 (if you take away Kameni and Eto’o)  there is a foundation for the emergence of another great pride of Lions (including the likes of Joel Matp and Salli Edgar),  if they play under the guidance of a manager who is there to build and  is not under pressure to produce immediate results (which politicians want to use as distraction).

“A manager (coach) can only make a difference if he has a club that backs him, that is patient, that gives confidence to players and that is willing to commit to long-term. And in any case that doesn’t just want to win, but to win convincingly,” Arrigo Sacchi, the Italian master tactician, is quoted as saying in Jonathan Wilson’s book: Inverting the Pyramid.

The mistake that has been made in the past and which was repeated after the World Cup in 2010 was to go for the short-term (or victory now and at all cost) approach. Authorities and the media didn’t accept that the Indomitable Lions were (are) a team under construction (in transition).

They went into witch-hunting mode, comparing generations passed and present, and mis-managing (or over-reacting to) tensions between players in the squad. Many were oblivious to the fact that Le Guen had unearthed talented  but inexperienced players that had to mature and could not necessarily triumph at the World Cup or ride over the continent.

Upon the first hurdle (which was the 1-1 draw with Congo), the media and team administrators panicked and a chain of reactions has led to a collapse of what should have been a painstaking project.

An absence from the Africa Cup could turn to into an opportunity to build a solid and more conquering team. With less pressure to win a trophy, a good and passionate coach, discipline and better organisation, regular camps and sparring partners on every FIFA date available, the Lions would re-emerge as a force in 2012/13 in time for the World Cup qualifiers.

Wasn’t that the path that Senegal took after they were knocked-out of the race to the 2010 Africa Cup and World Cup tournaments?

Eto'o celebrates goal

Samuel Eto’o has won the CAF African Footballer of the Year award for a record fourth time after he was named the continent’s best player in 2010 at a ceremony in Egypt on Monday night.

The Cameroonian who won the European Champions league, the Italian Serie A, the Italian Cup and  Super-Cup, and the World Club Cup came ahead of Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan and Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba.

“I would like to seek your support to help Africa win the World Cup,” Eto’o said to Issa Hayatou,the chairman of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) while receiving the award.

The Inter Milan striker said the African continent has quality players, coaches and managers to be be able to attain that ojective.

He also heaped praise on TP Mazembe of the Congo Democratic Republic for flying Africa’s flag at the just ended FIFA World Club Cup. TP Mazembe became the first African team to reach the final of that tournament but were beaten 3-0 by Europe’s  Inter Milan, with Eto’o scoring and providing an assist for the Italians.

The runner-up, Ghana’s Gyan who was named BBC African Footballer of the Year last Friday, said he was young and had many years ahead of him to win the award.

“It’s a surprise to see me standing here before all these big men of Africa,” he said in reference to his youth and the achievements he had already made.

Gyan was the lead scorer for the  Black Stars of Ghana who reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and the quarter-finals of the World Cup in South Africa this year.

He missed a last minute penalty that would have taken Ghana to the semi-finals of the competition but showed great courage as he took and scored a penalty kick during the shoot-out at the end of the match.

He may well return as a challenger for this award if he maintains his current club form at Sunderland in the English Premier League where he has been very influential in terms of goals and assists.

Gyan, Eto’o, and Drogba feature in CAF’s African Eleven of the year which also includes Egypt’s national team captain Ahmed Hassan who won the award for the Best African Footballer based in the African continent.

Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o was named best player of the FIFA Club World Cup after his Italian team, Inter  Milan trounced TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 3-nil on Saturday to win the tournament.

Eto’o scored Inter’s second goal at the 17th minute of play via a powerful drive from the edge of the 18-yard area after he had provided an assist for Goran Pandev’s curtain raiser 13 minutes into the game.

It has been a stellar year for Eto’o and Inter Milan. The team have also won the European Champions League, the Italian League, Cup and Super-Cup  and the Cameroonian has scored 19 times in 23 appearances for Inter since August.

“I want to write history with Inter,” Eto’o said on his arrival at Inter last year. “I won almost everything with Barça, I hope to do so also here.”

He has clearly kept to his word.

Cameroon’s dismal performances at both the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola and the World Cup in South Africa have been the black spots in Eto’o’s 2010. On both occasions he finished as the Indomitable Lions’ best scorer but the overall team out-put was poor.

Maybe he had this in mind because he wasn’t overly excited during the presentation of his individual award (which includes a car) and the World Club Cup trophy to Inter. It could also be that he wanted to contain his joy as a sign of respect for the day’s opponents who were representing Africa, his home continent.  

The Congolese team became the first African (and first non-European or South American) club to reach the final of this competition after they beat the representatives of North/Central America and South America in the quarter and sem-finals respectively.

TP Mazembe, that fielded Cameroon-born Narcisse Ekanga, crumbled under the weight of Inter’s experience and quality.

Ekanga, who played as a holding midfielder, displayed strong physical strength, doing his utmost to contain his compatriot (Eto’o) but he was also guilty of attempting rather dangerous tackles and was booked in the first half.

He would also need to rein-in his temper if he expects to progress at an international level. He was seen constantly protesting against the referee’s decisions and had to be called to order by Mazembe’s Senegalese coach Lamine Ndiaye.

Benoît Assou-Ekotto had a rough Tuesday night at the Stade de Suisse where he was substituted within 30 minutes of play in a Champions League play-off *game between Tottenham Hotspur (England) and  Young Boys Bernes (Switzerland). The Cameroonian wasn’t at his best but fans could at least find a place in the hearts for a multi-million footballer who is willing to donate to the less fortunate, as reported byPeter Dominiczak in the London Evening Standard.

**Today Tottenham Hotspur star Benoît Assou-Ekotto said he was moved to donate to the Dispossessed Fund after picking up a copy of the Evening Standard on the Underground and reading about the “shocking” plight of the capital’s poorest people.

The Cameroon international, who was born in Arras in the north of France, is making a significant donation to the Standard’s campaign after reading about the practice of interring bodies in communal paupers’ graves.

Speaking near his home in Canary Wharf, the Tottenham left-back hailed the £1 million fund as doing “something very special for London” and called for more to be done to help the capital’s poor. He said: “I’m proud to support the Standard’s Dispossessed campaign. It is doing something very special for London. When I picked up the newspaper and read about the kind of poverty still going on in this city, it was shocking.

“The campaign showed how some people are living in London. It was a big surprise. You don’t expect that in a city with so much. It made me so happy that Londoners want to do something about it.”

Despite his millions and a fleet of performance cars, the 26-year-old has shunned aspects of the typical Premier League footballer’s lifestyle since arriving at Tottenham in 2006.

He takes the Tube everywhere he goes in central London and is unlikely to be spotted stumbling out of a nightspot at 3am. “I love London and consider myself to be a Londoner. I take the Tube. It allows me to feel like a normal person,” he said. “I’ve always got my Oyster card with me. I live an anti-football life. I want to live like a normal person. My mother didn’t teach me to live like a star. I know how difficult it is to make money.

“It’s strange to walk around the city and see people sleeping in the streets. You shouldn’t be able to see something like that and then just go home and carry on with your life as normal. You have to do something about it.”

Assou-Ekotto’s father, David, moved to France from Cameroon as a 16-year-old boy. Although he was born in France and has a French mother, Assou-Ekotto has always considered himself to be from Cameroon and played for the national team at the World Cup. He said his background has made him acutely aware of just how important it is to help those in need.

“I’m a footballer and I earn a lot of money, but when I go back to Cameroon I see the real problems that people are facing. It made me re-evaluate my life. The Dispossessed has shown that the same type of problems still exist in London. In 2010, everybody in London should be able to live a normal life. Everybody should have a roof over their head and should be able to eat every day. It’s not happening here and that is wrong.”

Assou-Ekotto said he was astonished by the “community spirit” of Londoners who donated to the fund. “London has a very special place in my heart. When I give up football, I want to stay here,” he said. “What is most important about the campaign is the feeling of Londoners coming together to help people. I’ve never known anything like the Dispossessed happening in France. Londoners care a lot about their city and the people in it.”

Assou-Ekotto called on Londoners to continue to support the campaign. He said: “It’s important for the whole of London to support the Dispossessed. In a city that has so much, it is good that we can do something to help people with so little.”

*By the way, the game between Spurs and Young Boys finished on a 3-2 scoreline. Two Cameroonian scored in the game: Bienvenue Tsama for the Swiss team and Sebastien Bassong for the English outfit.

**This original title of this piece is:The Dispossessed: Spurs star Benoît Assou-Ekotto proud to help ease plight of poor

Cameroon’s sport authorities have appointed Javier Clemente as the head coach of the country’s national football team with former internationals Francois Omam Biyick and Jacques Songo’o as his assistants, State radio (CRTV) said on Tuesday 17 August 2010.

He replaces Paul Le Guen who resigned in June following a dismal World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Clemente, a former spain coach (1992-1998) and twice winner of the Spanish  league, is expected in Cameroon on 28 August to sign his contract, according to a release by the country’s ministry of sport.  

CAPTAINS AS DEPUTIES

Omam Biyick, a former captain of the Indomitable Lions is joining the Lions’ coaching staff for the first time. He is fondly remembered for scoring Cameroon’s goal against Argentina in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup.

His former Canon of Yaounde team-mate, Songo’o (also a former national team captain) was until Clemente’s appointment the interim manager. Songo’o was Le Guen’s deputy in-charge of goalkeeping and had held the same role under Portuguese born Arthur Jorge between February 2005 and February 2006.

“The new staff is taking over at a time when a detailed review of the organisation of football in general, and the national teams in particular, is near completion,” the statement said.

NEW RULES

There will be new internal rules for the national teams, Manga Zambo, the head of judicial affairs in Cameroon’s Ministry of Sport and Physical Education told CRTV.

“The main innovation will be a real disciplinary code…as a huge part of this document is about mutual respect, patriotism…and clearly stipulates what is banned from the national team,” Zambo said.

Local media and some football officials blamed lack of discipline, in-fighting and absence of commitment for Cameroon’s lacklustre performances at the World Cup.

These new document will also the various types of punishments – ranging from a simple reprimand, through suspension to outright eviction from the national team, Zambo added.

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?