May 30, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
Getting to know…Cameroon: Most people know the seasoned striker, but there is talent dotted across this African squad. However, history is not on their side. Despite an African-record six World Cup appearances, they have only made it past the group stage once – in 1990 when they reached the quarterfinals before losing to England in extra time. It’s often about beating the odds for the African countries, but in a group with no clear second-place finisher, they could make some noise.
Record in qualifying: Cameroon topped Group I of the CAF qualification group stage with 13 points, beating out Libya to reach the playoff round. After drawing Tunisia, they put a 0-0 first-leg draw behind them to trounce Les Aigles 4-1 on the road and pull one of the five African spots in the 2014 World Cup.
What group are they in? The Indomitable Lions are members of Group A along with Brazil, Mexico, and Croatia. It would appear on paper that they would be on the outside looking in, but with Mexico and Croatia hoping to duke it out on the last day for the second spot behind Brazil, Cameroon could catch some by surprise if they pick up a result against one or both of those countries.
Game Schedule: Group A
13 June, 12:00 ET, Natal – Mexico vs. Cameroon
18 June, 18:00 ET, Manaus – Cameroon vs. Croatia
23 June, 16:00 ET, Brasilia – Cameroon vs. Brazil
Star Player: Samuel Eto’o
Chelsea’s veteran striker Samuel Eto’o will make his third World Cup appearance, and has seen just about everything in the European game. As
Cameroon’s third most capped player, he will hopefully have some help from fellow seasoned striker Pierre Webo in the goal scoring department, but the buck often stops with Eto’o.
Manager: Volker Finke
The 66-year-old German is Cameroon’s fifth manager since their disappointing 2010 campaign. The 16-year boss of Bundesliga side Freiburg, Finke’s hiring a year ago was met with criticism around the country, even conspiracy theories that German kit sponsor Puma had a hand in the selection. Despite mostly positive results since his hiring, there are still doubters of the “Finke Method”, especially after the team fell 5-1 to Portugal in a March friendly. Other than a one-year venture Japan’s J-League, Cameroon is Finke”s first foray outside of Germany.
Secret Weapon: Size
Between the 6-foot Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song’s 6-foot-1 frame, the 6-foot Nicolas N’Koulou, and 6-foot Pierre Webo, the team has not just height but plenty of bulk to go along with it. The team pairs that with impressive speed, and the skills are there. Sometimes, however, the size advantage can betray Cameroon, and their defense is prone to giving away fouls (and penalties) in bad areas. The team has a good mix of experience (Eto’o, Webo, Jean Makoun, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Stephane Mbia) and young but proven talent (N’Koulou, Vincent Aboubakar). Finke has the build, now he just needs to get the team to play like one.
Prediction: Of all the African nations often written off before the start of the tournament (Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana), Cameroon likely has the best chance to make the knockout round. They have to start strong, with their best chance for points in their first match, and it only gets tougher from there. Odds are they succumb to the superior talent around them, but Cameroon could definitely contend for that second position in Group A.
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