Cameroon Camp Focus – Indomitable Lions flying the flag

Of all the African nations representing their countries at the World Cup , Cameroon remain the highest ranked and second highest African side overall in the FIFA rankings, behind only to absent African champions Egypt. The erratic Paul Le Guen now has his chance to add some stability to his ever changing CV, hoping to guide the West Africans to the quarter-finals or beyond. The Coach has been pleased with his side’s warm up matches, despite two draws and two defeats in the build up, Cameroon have slowly started to show signs of encouragement. Their struggles through the qualifiers and the past month of fixtures have cemented their reputation as grafters, justifying their moniker of the Indomitable Lions.

The last warm up fixture against Serbia showcased a poor defensive display but the Lions proved that they could find the net even without their star man Samuel Eto’o. Le Guen commented: “The team is better because I have succeeded to make the players compete for a place in the first XI of the team.” The saga surrounding Eto’o has clearly provoked the competition up front and the Coach will hope that the pattern will spread to the rest of the squad. Coton Sport striker Vincent Aboubakar remains the only member of the initial group of players who ply their trade in Cameroon’s MTN Elite One. The injury to Basel forward Jacques Zoua has kept Aboubakar in the squad allowing Le Guen to appease the Cameroonians with a home-grown talent.

As their first group match beckons, the Coach has stated his squad will strive to qualify from Group E but is realistic of Cameroon’s chances. In an interview with the former Paris Saint-Germain boss has played down any hype, conceding that the Dutch are favourites to top the group but insists his side will endeavour to finish second. Denmark may look stronger on paper with many of their squad playing their club football at big European clubs but the Lions’ target of second is not unfeasible. Only Netherlands sit higher in the FIFA rankings than Cameroon, something which Le Guen hopes to emulate in Group E as the table is sculpted through the opening stages. Denmark and Japan sit at 36th and 45th respectively in the FIFA rankings.

Cameroon’s first fixture is against Japan in Bloemfontein on June 14. The three World Cup encounters between the two nations have resulted in two wins for the Japanese and a draw with Japan scoring four goals. This year however, the Japanese have faced a rigid warm up period, being defeated four consecutive times and will need to improve quickly to reach the knockout stages. Although Cameroon have also failed to win any warm up matches, their last fixture was on June 5, while Japan have hastily organised another friendly against Mozambique in a bid to sharpen themselves ahead of their opening clash. Japan’s extra fixture could bode well for Cameroon as the rested Africans will look to capitalise on the Asians’ congested fixture list. Cameroon’s key fixtures look to be against Netherlands and Denmark. Le Guen admitted: “I know that the Netherlands are an absolute favourite of the group.” The Danes pose more of a threat for the coveted second spot in the group table than the Japanese and the encounter on June 19 against Morten Olsen’s outfit is sure to scintillate.

Cameroon are arguably the strongest African side at the World Cup and they will look to fly the flag of not only their nation but of the plight of black footballers and there is nowhere better to do that than South Africa 2010. Eto’o is beaming at the prospect of playing on his home continent as arguably the finest African player on the planet right now along with Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba. The three-time African Player of the Year has often been subjected to torrents of racist abuse in club football but now Eto’o is in high spirits: “I’ve always had this dream of playing in the World Cup in Africa. I’m going home, to Africa.

Eto’o is a serious man, rarely cracking a smile, and he now shoulders a serious responsibility as captain of his country. The mention of Roger Milla’s avuncular ill-timed remarks still sting but must be put aside along with the other pre-tournament problems as he looks to silence racists and lead his pride of Lions.


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