It’s been a while since the Indomitable Lions were perched atop the African football pedestal looking down on the heard of continental competitors. True to their nickname, Cameroon was king of Africa. The glory days of Roger Milla and Italia ’90 success are a distant memory, and have since proven to be an anomaly. The quarterfinal defeat to England was the last time Cameroon made it past the group stage in six appearances at the World Cup, the most by any African nation. The elevation of standards on the continental front has seen Cameroon’s stock plummet, as Ivory Coast and Ghana have become the heavyweights of the region. Expectations should be kept in check.
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)
Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Joel Matip (Schalke), Stephane Mbia (QPR), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux), Alex Song (Barcelona), Edgar Salli (Lens)
Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (unattached), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Pierre Webo (Fenerbahce), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem)
After spending 16 years as manager of Bundesliga side SC Freiburg—exiting in 2007—Volker Finke followed up with two seasons in Japan with Urawa Red Diamonds. The 66 year-old German became sporting director at FC Koln before briefly taking over in the dugout until season end (five months in total). Cameroon has only lost twice in the 10 matches since Finke’s arrival last May.
4-2-3-1 (GK) Itandje – (D) Nyom, Nkoulou, Chedjou, Bedimo – (M) Song, Enoh, Aboubakar, Moukandjo, Makoun – (F) Eto’o
Group A schedule
June 13: vs. Mexico in Natal
June 18: vs. Croatia in Manaus
June 23: vs. Brazil in Brasilia
How they qualified
Luck and a little bit of witchcraft, which is prevalent on the continent. Actually, the latter cannot be realistically proven, but it does provide a more dramatic conclusion than the truth. A shock defeat in Libya provided quite a scare on match-day two of the second round of qualifying, with the game-winner scored in the final moments of injury time. However, Cameroon bounced back by beating Togo at their national stadium (2-1) in Yaounde. The return fixture was where the controversy begins, and the truth becomes clear. Despite losing 2-0—which could have effectively derailed Cameroon’s World Cup campaign—FIFA awarded them a 3-0 victory after confirming that Togo fielded an ineligible player. The decision turned out to be extremely significant, paving the way to a two-legged playoff victory (4-1 on aggregate) over Tunisia.
The only way is forward. Cameroon has never been fully or even adequately equipped for anything more than the attack zone. The Indomitable Lions are quite entertaining to watch by nature, even though it directly results in their consequential downfall.
See above. The imbalance of focus has never produced decent results, as Cameroon’s showings at the World Cup have been consistently poor. Qualifying is only half a job done well. The biggest void is between the posts; Charles Itandje—former backup at Liverpool—being the elder statesmen.
Players to watch
Four-time World Cup veteran Samuel Eto’o is a safe bet to garner much of the focus. As will Mainz striker and double-digit Bundesliga scorer (10) Maxime Choupo-Moting. Having just won the Europa League title with Sevilla, Stephane M’Bia is another player that deserves some of the attention.
Is it possible to do any worse than four years ago in South Africa? Anything is possible, though, I’m fairly confident in assessing that Cameroon are definitely a different version than before, and should be able to do at least one better than their woeful zero-point performance in 2010.
Prospects in Brazil
The disadvantage of being drawn into the same group as the host nation is apparent, though, that is not Cameroon’s only problem. Croatia and Mexico are tough competitors that are favoured to be the second qualifier. If results follow script, the Indomitable Lions will put up a struggle, but in the end they are obvious group underdogs. Not much will be expected from majority of neutral outsiders.
World Cup history
African football’s most successful nation will be participating in their seventh World Cup. Five of those appearances ended in the group stage. Italia ’90 was the country’s best moment in football—finishing tops of a group including Romania, Argentina and Soviet Union—qualifying into the second round and beating Colombia 2-1 in added extra-time, before losing 3-2 to England in the quarterfinal. Cameroon’s Roger Milla was one of the tournament’s best players.
• 1930 to 1978—Did not enter
• 1982—First round
• 1986—Did not qualify
• 1994 to 2002—First round
• 2006—Did not qualify
• 2010—First round
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States