Cameroon's recent friendly meeting with France at the Stade de France on 30 May provided another example of the spirit and simple style of play that has been enthralling fans of late.
Despite eventually losing 3-2 to the star-studded UEFA EURO 2016 hosts, their solid performance was another sign of the progress made under Hugo Broos, who was appointed earlier this year. The Belgian coach spoke to FIFA.com about his new job at the helm of Les Lions Indomptables, and his dreams of lifting the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and steering his charges to the FIFA World Cup™.
“Our international players must understand that the overall objective is a win for the team and not their own individual performances. We now have a consistent and balanced group of players; that became clear to me during our last international get-together in Nantes and during the friendly match we played against France.”
Cameroon recently qualified for the 2017 Cup of Nations in Gabon, after dominating a group that included Mauritania, South Africa and Gambia “It wasn’t easy to book our place in Gabon,” said the 64-year-old tactician. “I took up the role halfway through the campaign and we got a draw against South Africa in my first match in charge. I didn’t know the team or the players very well.
“I then started working on various aspects, and I think there’s now a huge difference between the original team that played South Africa and the one that won in Mauritania in the last round of matches. We’ve put in a significant amount of work so far.
“The match versus Mauritania was important for us. We had to win it to qualify. We prepared really well for it and we did all we could to bring the three points back home. In the end, we beat them away from home and got what we came for.”
Cameroon were eliminated at the group stage of the 2015 competition despite putting in some fine performances during the qualifying campaign, including a resounding victory over Côte d’Ivoire. This time around, Broos and his players have their eyes on lifting the trophy for the first time since 2002, rather than repeating that disappointing experience.
“We have to be patient. We’ve taken a big step forward in qualifying for Gabon 2017, but that isn’t for another six months or so. Before that, we’ve got a final Cup of Nations qualifier and then two qualifiers for Russia 2018. We have lots of work ahead of us and we’re going to try to strengthen every area of the team.
“If you’re asking me if my players are ready now to win the Cup of Nations, I would say that it’s too early still to talk about success. But if we continue to progress as we’ve done in the past couple of months, I think we’ll be ready to compete for the title in January.”
All African football fans will have their eyes trained on Cairo on 24 June, the day of the draw for the final round of qualifying for Russia 2018. “Cameroon are in the third pot, and I therefore expect a difficult group,” said Broos. “We won’t get any favours from any teams, even though some opponents will be more manageable than others.”
Cameroon are regulars at the FIFA World Cup™, having appeared on football’s biggest stage at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, after missing out on Germany 2006. Despite this good record, the task is still likely to be onerous.
“You have to remember that we’re at a transitional stage and that we’re building a new team,” he added. “Yes, we qualified for Brazil 2014, but our performances once we got there were disappointing. We have to put that behind us and look to the future.”
He continued: “Qualification for the World Cup will depend on how fast the players buy into the rebuilding project. We’ll need to build a solid side, one that can compete with any opponents. If the players apply the advice that we give them at training, it will all go well. Now, we’ll see who we get in the draw on 24 June and what kind of chances we have on paper. Getting Cameroon to Russia 2018 is my prime objective.”
For the last two cycles, Africa has sent exactly the same representatives to the World Cup, namely Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Algeria. Broos would love to see Les Lions Indomptables make it three-in-a-row in Russia.
“Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are well placed – they’ve maintained their level since 2014, but in football, anything can happen,” said the former Anderlecht star. “Everyone expected us to lose heavily in our friendly with France, but we ended up playing really well and we almost snatched a draw. Predictions are always tricky, but in theory, the teams that appeared at the last edition have a slight advantage.”