2014 World Cup Group A team previews: Cameroon
Cameroon return to the World Cup finals for the seventh time with one of the world’s most successful players in their ranks, but their prospects of progress past the first round look slim with group matches against hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico.
Their 2014 squad has little of the charisma of previous teams who won worldwide affection with their dogged style and colourful kit.
Cameroon won only half of the eight games they needed to qualify for Brazil, benefiting along the way from group rivals Togo using an ineligible player in a match in which they beat Cameroon but then had the points reversed.
It was only at the end of the preliminaries last November that Cameroon, who had squeezed through the group stage, showed any form, beating Tunisia 4-1 in their decisive qualifier to win a play-off for a place at the finals in Brazil.
Since then Cameroon have been beaten 5-1 in a friendly in March by Portugal, creating a new polemic in a country that seems to thrive on never-ending crisis.
The Cameroon Football Federation is being run by a Fifa-appointed committee after disputed elections and the jailing of its previous president, while a new constitution and elections are arranged.
Their German coach Volker Finke remains under a constant barrage of criticism despite adding some obvious structure to the side. Among his fiercest critics is former World Cup hero Roger Milla, who feels a local coach should be in charge.
Milla was in the “Indomitable Lions” team in 1982 when they made their World Cup debuts, holding eventual champions Italy, third-placed finishers Poland and Peru to draws in their opening group matches in Spain, and again in 1990 when Cameroon were the first African side to reach the quarter-finals.
Captain Samuel Eto’o, who has won three Champions League titles and league honours in Spain and Italy, will compete in a fourth World Cup as captain of a team he has been accused of dividing.
Their 2010 finals appearance, where they lost all three group games, was beset with personality problems, notably between Eto’o and the midfielder Alex Song.
Song did not play for Cameroon for 18 months after the World Cup because of the bust-up, but Finke has suggested much of the antagonism has been put to bed.
They head to Brazil with a tough task ahead of them and, although many of their players have experience at the highest level in the major European leagues, success in South America looks a step too far.
Five to watch:
Aurelien Chedjou, defender (Galatasaray); age 28; 29 caps. A central defender, and occasional defensive midfielder, of some presence, but with a penchant for eccentricity. The Turkish champions bought him last summer from Lille where he won Ligue 1 honours. He first went to Europe to play at Valencia, but drifted through several lower-league clubs in France before emerging at Lille. First capped in 2009 and played one match at the World Cup in South Africa.
Stephane Mbia, midfielder (Sevilla); age 27; 47 caps. His preferred position is defensive midfielder, but Cameroon have used him more often at right-back. When he was in Marseille’s Ligue 1 championship-winning side in 2010, he was used as a centre-back. He had an unhappy time at QPR and has been on loan this season in Spain. Played in all three matches at the 2010 World Cup and also at two African Cup of Nations finals.
Jean Makoun, midfielder (Stade Rennes); age 30; 68 caps. Right-sided midfielder who scored two goals in the vital qualifying win over Tunisia. Made his name at Lille before a €15 million (Dh77.1m) move to Lyon in 2008. Gerard Houllier took him to England, but a brief spell at Aston Villa ended, allegedly, because he could not speak English. This season he has been embroiled in a dispute with his coach at Rennes, but remains a stalwart in the Cameroon squad.
Alex Song, midfielder (Barcelona); age 26; 43 caps. Made up for his lack of action at club level by being the only man to play in each of Cameroon’s eight qualifying matches. His tiff with Samuel Eto’o split the camp at the last World Cup finals, where he played just the opening encounter and then stayed away from the national squad for 18 months. His club career has taken in spells at Bastia, Arsenal and Charlton Athletic.
Samuel Eto’o, striker (Chelsea); age 33; 113 caps. Arguably Africa’s most successful footballer, with a record four African Footballer of the Year awards, three Champions League titles and championships medals in Spain and Italy. He played at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups, scoring three times in seven matches and in all has 55 goals for his country. In 2011, he added the moniker “world’s best-paid footballer” to his long list of accomplishments when he signed a deal at Anzhi Makhachkala of Russia that earned him €20 million a season.
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Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM