Cameroon at the World Cup: Offensive Question Marks Remain After Tune-Up
The greatest question mark buzzing around Cameroon's World Cup squad is their ability to score goals and the uninspired performance they turned in against overmatched Georgia on Tuesday did little to answer supporters' and media-members' concerns.
There is a school of thought among Cameroonian media and Indomitable Lions' fans the world over that their team are in a transitional period, with the old guard of Rigobert Song, Geremi, and Mohammadou Idrissou on the way out, while young stars like Jean Makoun, Alex Song, and the Tottenham defensive duo of Benoît Assou-Ekoto and Sebastien Bassong have not quite come into their own yet.
Another plausible narrative posits that, led by star forward Samuel Eto'o, goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, and a solid stable of talented young midfield and defensive players, Cameroon have never fielded a World Cup squad with a better opportunity to make a deep run.
At the heart of the debate is the question of goal-scoring: do Cameroon have the creative midfield options and striking talent to generate chances for Eto'o?
Tuesday's result, which featured a largely experimental lineup, would not seem to provide a definitive answer one way or the other.
With Eto'o and Achille Emana still unavailable, Alex Song, Makoun, and Nicolas Nkoulou were the only likely World Cup starters who began the match for Cameroon, though either Achille Webo or Idrissou, who both missed chances in the match, is likely to join Eto'o on the front line.
Otherwise, with the exception of Rigobert Song, most of the rest of the players who began the match, including amateurs Patrick Mevoungou and Abouna Ndzana, are not likely to make the final roster.
A nil-nil result was certainly frustrating considering the weakness of the opponent and the strong chances wasted by Bundesliga striker Idrissou. Even after Le Guen retooled the lineup at halftime, taking advantage of the lax friendly rules to introduce several players, Cameroon were not able to get anything going.
Nonetheless, this result does not signify much other than the need to reserve judgment for the more significant pre-tournament fixtures coming up over the next two weeks.
The Road Ahead
With three matches in the next ten days against World Cup teams Slovakia, Portugal, and Serbia, Cameroon will look to test themselves more seriously.
With the return of Eto'o and Emana, Le Guen will be able to field a more or less complete roster for Saturday's game against Slovakia, providing him with an opportunity to try a few more combinations of players before announcing the Lions' final 23-man roster on June 1.
The final two matches, in Covilha, Portugal and Belgrade, should provide a decent preview of Le Guen's offensive game-plan against a veteran side in Portugal and an extremely talented young Serbian squad.
The results of these final World Cup tune-ups will go a long way toward determining whether Eto'o can expect a perfect partner in Idrissou or Webo (unlikely considering their collective track record), or whether the forward line will be modified on a match-by-match basis to suit the opponent.
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