Article: Roselind Amoh
AT both the club and national levels, Cameroun have been the flagship of football in Central Africa, but in the prestigious continental championship they may have been Latter-Day Saints in the continental championship, considering the fact that they won their titles long after some had already set the pace.
Indeed, Cameroun won their record four titles in such quick sucession — 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2002 — an era that saw them also dominating at the world level.
The Indomitable Lions, as the senior national team, are known, do not only roar on the pitch, but also have all the attributes of the dangerous animal; they take their name from afar. They look exciting and intriguing, but closely, they are very dangerous. And their winning records speak for themselves.
Their participation in the 26th edition of the MTN Africa Cup of Nations will be the 15th appearance for the Lions, and it will be the 7th appearance in a row.
Since their first appearance in 1970, the Indomitable Lions have always brought some exciting dimensions to the game, either in the quality of their players or the apt tactics of their technical men.
From their gifted Star, Theophile Abega, who led them to lift their first title in 1984 through to the legendary Roger Milla, the huge-framed but immensely talented Patrick Mboma, the inspirational captain, and probably the most capped player in Nations Cup appearance, Rigobert Song, through to the young star who has achieved legendary status even in his active days, Samuel Eto’O Fils, the Camerounians have never lacked the stars who only not glitter on the biggest stage, but also get their plans executed in the most exciting manner.
At Ghana 2008, the Lions who failed in their bid to win their 5th consecutive title will be back to pick up the pieces from where they left off in the 2006 competition staged in Egypt.
Unlike previous competitions there were many stars to choose from, Cameroun will this time round be relying heavily on the sublime striking abilities of Eto’o, arguably one of the finest strikers in the world. They could also draw some strength on a consistent and well-composed team built over the last two years to see their dream come true.
They should expect a fierce competition from the defending champions, Egypt, who themselves will be chasing a record of their own as well as of other equally hungry teams who will be vying for positions from the other groups.
Cameroun and Egypt have a chequered history stretching back to 1982. To date, the two African giants have played 21 international matches, with the Pharaohs winning nine of the clashes against seven wins by the Lions, who beat their opponents 1-0 through Patrick Mboma’s goal at the semi-finals of the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali.
Their Nations Cup record makes interesting reading. The Lions have won 32 out of 61 games, drawing 19 and losing 10 matches in their previous 14 appearances. That makes them favourites to beat Zambia and the Sudan in Group C, in spite of a balanced head-to-head record of matches against the two sides.
To take a difficult decision of dumping their local coach, Jules Nyongha, who guided them through the qualifiers with an unblemished record for German Otto Pfister, means the men in Cameroun very well know the risk they are taking.
But their quest to get the best to get them to their dream may have informed their decision to go in for Pfister, one of several expatriates with a very deep knowledge about the African game, would prove handy in Cameroun’s quest for a 5th continental triumph, having previously coached such national teams as Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Zaire, Ghana and Togo. He has also handled clubs in Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia.
Qualifying from Group C may not be that difficult a task for the Lions, but guided by their shock exit in the 1996 event in South Africa when everyone had tipped them to get to the very end, the Camerounians are being cautious not to fall prey to the problems they always create for themselves.
Eager to reclaim the spotlight, particularly after missing the final show at Egypt 2006 and missing out at the 2006 World Cup, it will be no surprise if the Camerounians turn up in Ghana 2008 in yet another eye-catching fashion, both on and off the field.