Disorganised Cameroon hope Eto’o shines

June 7, 2010

A possible line-up

You might think, without watching Cameroon play and only judging them by their team sheet, that this team is all about Samuel Eto’o. When you see them in action, you realise that this is exactly the case.

Eto’o recently threatened to quit the national side after criticism from Cameroon legend Roger Milla, who accused the Inter forward of failing to reproduce his club form at international level. It’s probably true, but hardly surprising considering the relative mediocrity of the players Eto’o is alongside for his country, and the fact that he plays a role that it’s difficult to dominate games from. Even when he’s head and shoulders ahead of the other 21 players in terms of ability, he still needs service and creativity to be able to work his magic.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba, Eto’o is the captain of his country because of his status as best player, rather than because of a reputation as a well-disciplined leader who will provide an example to others. Having such a petulant player as skipper can bring its problems; Eto’o threatening to walk out days before the tournament was an extreme example and sums up the lack of team spirit in the Cameroon camp.

The team

For a team so dominated by one individual, it’s pretty difficult to judge how they’ll line up in South Africa based upon their pre-tournament friendlies, since Eto’o was not involved in three of them, and was sent-off in the first half of the other.

The main thing to take from the friendlies is that Cameroon have looked atrocious; disorganised at the back and lacking creativity further up the pitch. The reintroduction of Spurs duo Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong has helped the former problem.

They will probably be joined by Stephane Mbia and Nicolas Nkoulou, two physical players who both play as holding midfielders for their club sides, completing a back four that looks good on paper, and one that kept a clean sheet against Italy back in March.

Ahead of them is Alex Song, an excellent player who takes on more of a creative role than Arsenal fans may be used to – he doesn’t have Denilson, Fabregas or Nasri to casually knock the ball to, and often attempts more ambitious passes to the wings. He will probably be alongside Jean Makoun of Lyon.

The situation ahead is less clear, as Paul Le Guen doesn’t seem settled on a formation. Eto’o (striker) and Achille Emana (creative midfielder) will start, but the positions around them still seem up for grabs. Something resembling a diamond midfield may be likely against Japan, with Georges Mandjeck on the right of midfield, and a striker playing around Eto’o – Mallorca’s Pierre Webo scored two against Serbia this week and may have played his way into the side.


Probably the most difficult of the 32 countries in terms of predicting the starting XI, and such disorganisation doesn’t lend itself to good team play. Eto’o can be a game-changer if he plays with commitment and desire, but a poor performance from him will see Cameroon struggle in the final third, with Emana the only other player to show (inconsistent) quality.

Alex Song will be Cameroon’s key man, as he can dominate the midfield and get Cameroon playing. His partnership with Jean Makoun could provide the technical quality that has been missing from the midfield in recent months, and behind them, the overhaul of the back four should provide Cameroon with a solid defence.

With the group games increasing in difficulty, Cameroon need to make a strong start – or hope that the Netherlands are already through and able to ease off in their final group game.

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