Nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, Cameroon is one of Africa’s major hopefuls in Brazil and will undoubtedly rely mostly on the exploits of captain and star striker Samuel Etoo to lead them to the Promised Podium.
The guidance of new head coach Volke Finke saw them rising from the jaws of defeat to claiming a place in the last qualifying round where they comfortably made it courtesy of a hard fought 4-1 win over bitter rivals Tunisia.
The African media has already started speculating that Cameroons chances of hitting the jackpot in Brazil will heavily depend on the “Finke Method” that has already started producing results.
“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. They were very divided. Within the squad we have spoken together a great deal in the last few months. Thanks to that we have arrived at a point, where together with the captain (Etoo), a very good team spirit has developed,” Finke told FIFA.COM.
The former mathematics teacher first used the “Finke Method” when Cameroon beat Tunisia in the World Cup playoffs but the joy of qualification was hardly unanimous.
Cameroon will be making their seventh appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals and their biggest achievement was reaching the quarter finals in Italy 1990. No African team has made it past the quarter finals stage.
Despite being in one of the toughest groups and their bad record at the FIFA World Cup, the Indomitable Lions will be hoping to prove their critics wrong this time around and they have a strong team that can do the work.
“If you want to win in football, the team has to maintain its concentration at all times and play well collectively. In every team you have players who can make a difference. Of course for us, that’s Samuel in attack. But in midfield we have Alex Song and at the back we have got Nicolas N’Koulou and Aurelein Chedjou, so that’s three more players who make up the spine of our game. Those four are crucial to us,” Finke testified.
Cameroon got their ticket courtesy of a 4-1 home win over hopeful Tunisia and the Indomitable Lions know that they will have to pull up their socks if they have any hope of upstaging the applecart in Brazil.
Cameroon have just missed the World Cup just once since 1986 but a lot has changed in their set up as the current crop of players are nowhere near the class of 1986 that included the lethal Roger Milla. They have been to six World Cups and this will be their seventh.
Fans of the Indomitable Lions had witnessed in horror how their once formidable Lions were tamed and caged up as other teams proceeded to successive Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2012 and 2013 with minnows Cape Verde among the sides that participated in the dismantling of the plucky Cameroonian team.
But 2014 could be a different year, if the form of Etoo and crew is anything to count on. This is despite the fact that they were routed 5-1 at the hands of Portugal in a friendly match in March.
Players To Watch
Despite being the ridicule of his Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho’s joke about his age, Etoo has proved that age aint nothing but a number. He has fiercely rattled and has kept his team in the hunt for the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays Premiership.
Etoo is still capable of coming up with masterful performances. The 32 year old came out of international retirement to score twice in a 2-1 qualifying victory against Togo and he will surely be asked to replicate that type of outing once the balls get roiling in Brazil.
Alex Song might be forgotten in club football because of his constant bench warming at Barcelona but the midfield magician still has a special place in his national team. Song proved the type of player that he is while still playing for Arsenal in England.
The versatile 26 year old was a key cog in the heart of the Indomitable Lions midfield during the qualifiers where he brought leadership and quality into a team that was so near in missing out.
Rennes midfielder Jean Makoun is another player who deserves special mention. Although he struggled to really nail down a starting spot throughout Cameroons eight qualifiers, the World Cup veteran could use his experience to stir the hornets nest.
Other players that are very capable of steering the Cameroonian ship to victory include veteran Pierre Webo and Benjamin Moukandjo.
Chances Of Making It
Cameroon will have to beat either Mexico or Croatia and at least fight for a draw against Brazil if they are to get to the last 16.
Bookmakers have already tipped Brazil to easily win the group and eliminated Cameroons chances by in throwing the names of Mexico and Croatia to follow them.
Even Finke isn’t surprised that the underdog tag heavily lies on their shoulders.
“Of course we are in a situation where we are underdogs. But we are going to the World Cup to reach the knockout rounds,” he stated.
But it will not be an easy task. A disappointing display at the last World Cup that included losses to 2010 runners up Netherlands, Japan and Denmark means that the team needs to have a positive outlook.
“In South Africa we completely veered off target. But I think we have a better team now with better organization and the players are happy and united,” said Makoun.
Of course this year’s team will not show the same class as Milla’s 1990 team, but all eyes will be on Etoo when they play Mexico on June 13, Croatia on June 18 and Brazil on June 23.
By: Farai Diza (Johannesburg, South Africa)