Cameroon are the final team in this summer’s World Cup Group A and are certainly the underdogs to make it through a competitive pool.
The Indomitable Lions are African’s most successful team in the competition’s history, with their best World Cup back in 1990 where they were unlucky to be eliminated in the quarter-finals by England.
Since then the nation have qualified for four of the resulting five World Cups, but only managed one victory in the process of being eliminated in the group stages on each occasion.
A 28-man preliminary contingent has been named for the tournament, which includes a fair number of experienced players that ply their trade at European clubs.
Three excellent options in central defence are available while central midfield will be the side’s real strength – literally.
Samuel Eto’o takes his place in the squad as captain and will look to add to his 55 international goals.
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Guy N’Dy Assembé (Guingamp), Sammy N’Djock (Fetihespor), Loïc Feudjou (Coton Sport)
Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurélien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille), Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR), Gaëtang Bong (Olympiakos), Joël Matip (Schalke 04)
Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Pierre Webo (Fenerbahce), Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem)
Interestingly, 70-cap veteran goalkeeper Carlos Kameni has not been named in the contingent, with his last international cap coming back in October 2013.
Norwich’s Sébastien Bassong is excluded while Anzhi Makhachkala defender Benoît Angbwa may also feel that he had a shot at inclusion.
A potential wildcard would have been Barcelona starlet Jean Marie Dongou, who continues to show his ability in the Catalunya outfit’s reserve ranks.
Given that the 18-year-old is so highly regarded at Camp Nou and is being widely tipped to be a real star in the future, there was certainly scope to at least include him in the initial group.
Veteran German coach Volker Finke is the man charged with getting the best from an industrious group, with the 66-year-old taking over last year in his first taste of national management.
The tactician is respected in his homeland for a 16-year stint at Freiburg and has a reputation for working with limited individual resources and turning it into an abrasive and spirited collective.
After two years out of the game, his appointment came as something of a surprise.
That said, although Cameroon’s qualifying campaign was less than convincing, Finke got what some have stated as the nation’s worst team in some time to the biggest tournament in world football.
Something of a disciplinarian, the German will have high demands of his players and expect his side to apply itself the very best that it can.
Formation / tactics
Finke’s time at Freiburg was synonymous with a high pressing game that was seen by many as revolutionary to some degree at the time.
As such, Cameroon can be expected to work their socks off, pressing high up the pitch and giving technically superior opposition very little time on the ball.
This could well be a successful ploy and in midfield stars Alex Song, Jean Makoun and Stéphane Mbia the nation have willing runners and combative players in the boiler room.
Cameroon will line up with four at the back and will field a 4-5-1 system that will turn into a bespoke 4-3-3 if they are on the front foot.
In Marseille’s Nicolas N’Koulou and Galatasaray’s Aurélien Chedjou the side has a settled central defensive partnership, with Schalke’s Joël Matip a highly-rated deputy.
Three battlers in the centre of midfield will see Song as the one with a licence to get on the ball and get forward, while two wide men will tuck into midfield without possession and look to support lone striker Eto’o with it.
Their match-up with Croatia will be of interest, with the physical midfield enforcers coming up against technically excellent opposite numbers. If they can get the upper hand in the centre of the pitch, three points are Cameroon’s for the taking.
Although lacking midfield creativity, Eto’o’s experience and predatory nature will ensure Cameroon are a dangerous side.
However, despite their physicality, there is a fine line between lung-busting effort and ill-discipline; if the African side toe the wrong side of it they could be in real trouble.
In a team that has willing workers but lacks guile and poise, the Barcelona man will be asked to add quality when Cameroon have the ball.
Predominantly used in a deep-lying or holding role at club level, Song may have a chance to feature more in an offensive sense for his nation.
Excellent on the ball and with the potential to do something unpredictable, Song is Cameroon’s most gifted technical player and as such a lot will be expected of him.
One to look out for
Vincent Aboubakar – The Lorient attacker has had an excellent season in Ligue 1, netting 16 goals and at 22 looks like the long-term successor to Eto’o.
Just how effective Aboubakar can be will depend on how he adopts to playing a wide role in the 4-5-1 formation if given a chance.
In this position, the up-and-coming forward will have to operate from wide and put in a defensive shift as well as getting into dangerous attacking areas.
However, given a chance in front of goal, Aboubakar could well be Cameroon’s hero. Plenty of European scouts will be keeping a keen eye on how he performs.
An outfit with the team spirit and physicality of Cameroon are never going to be an easy side to beat, and as such Mexico, Croatia and Brazil can expect a committed opponent.
If they can stay disciplined The Indomitable Lions will be difficult to break down, but a lack of cunning in the final third may mean that goals are hard to come by.
Cameroon have not progressed from a World Cup group since the golden generation of 1990 and changing that would be something of a shock this time round.