2010 WORLD CUP PREVIEW: CAMEROON
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup being the first on African soil, Cameroon will head to South Africa as a nation determined to live up to the lofty hopes and dreams of an entire continent.
Having been handed an extremely easy group in qualifying for South Africa—with the likes of Gabon, Togo, and Morocco, Cameroon coasted through qualification and won their group with relative ease.
Japan: June 14
Denmark: June 19
Netherlands: June 24
However, the draw for the World Cup group stage isn’t as kind to The Indomitable Lions. Paired with Japan, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the road to the round of 16 will be very challenging.
They take on Japan first on the sixth overall day of the tournament, before a showdown with Denmark five days later. Their last fixture sees them face The Netherlands in Cape Town in what could be for a place in the knockout stage.
While massive travel and altitude concerns could be a factor in the upcoming World Cup, they shouldn’t have as much of an effect on Cameroon. While they have fixtures in Bloemfontein, Pretoria, and Cape Town, respectively, the Indomitable Lions will have a home-field advantage of sorts in every match as they are representing African soccer to the rest of the world.
Expect each match to be hotly contested, as each team in the group will have realistic expectations to advance to the knockout stage.
Samuel Eto'o is the heart and soul of the Indomitable Lions. The Internazionale striker is one of the world’s most prolific goal scorers, having achieved Champions League glory, and scoring the opening goal for Barcelona in the 2009 final against Manchester United, before making the move to the Serie A over the summer. However, as Eto'o is once again in the Champions League final with Inter Milan on May 22, concerns over potential injury have to be taken into account, as he will be laying it on the line for European glory.
Manager Paul Le Guen will have other solid attacking threats as well, namely Pierre Webó, and Paul Alo'o.
Defensively, Cameroon has solid players with extensive European experiance.
They are armed with the likes of Alexandre Song of Arsenal, Benoît Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham, André Bikey of Burnley, Rigobert Song of Trabzonspor, and youngster Joël Matip of Schalke. Combine these with Carlos Kameni of Espanyol, voted Africa’s best goalkeeper in 2006-07, and Cameroon, on paper, have what it takes to be competitive in their group.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Cameroon’s greatest strength is its experience, with the upcoming World Cup being their sixth appearance in the finals, the most out of any African nation. Additionally, with the aforementioned home-field advantage and favorable crowd that the Indomitable Lions will have, it very well might be the most important key ingredient to a magical World Cup run.
Obviously Cameroon’s main tactical strength is going forward with Eto'o. They have enough veteran players with European experience to trouble any team.
Consequently, the main weakness the team has is their concentration. In the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, Cameroon stumbled out of the gate before bowing out in the quarterfinals. No concentration lapses will be forgiven in South Africa.
IT WOULD BE A GREAT WORLD CUP IF
The Indomitable Lions can advance out of the group stage; compete in a tough Round of 16 match with likely Italy or Paraguay, and reach the Quarterfinals in what would match their magical run in 1990. Such a run would show to the world how far African soccer has come in such short time, and the team would become one of the media darlings of the World Cup.
IT WOULD BE A DISASTER IF
Cameroon go out in the first round. The group is far from easy, with perennial powers The Netherlands sure to advance, along with an extremely strong Denmark team, which topped their qualification group that included the likes of Sweden and Portugal, and a Japanese team with nothing to lose and is capable of picking up points.
Cameroon may not be the sexiest pick to advance out of the group stage, but if there was ever a time and a place for a magical World Cup run, this would be it.
If the team can put aside their concentration woes and play smart soccer, the Indomitable Lions will secure a spot in the final 16. While it would be foolish to say that they will top their group, they have what it takes to advance, with star power and an entire continent behind them.