(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
There’s a moment that stands out among a few as the defining instant that is the history of Cameroon football. Actually it’s more so a series of moments than one in particular. If you will afford me the time, let’s take a trip back to 1990 where the world was a simpler time. Diego Maradona was on numerous substances, one of which included cocaine. Michael Jordan was labeled a selfish scorer who didn’t have the makeup of a champion. Germany reunified as one after their split following World War II, and Nolan Ryan pitched a no hitter at the age of 43. Some good and interesting times to kick off the 1990’s and the following is another.
It was the second round of the 1990 World Cup between Cameroon and Columbia. The tournament itself was pretty bland in terms of quality. Cameroon had already made history by making it into the knockout stage, making them the first African side to progress that far. They had already beaten the defending champs Argentina and were tops in Group B. What came from their second round matchup was pure awesomeness. Milla’s two goals in extra time got Cameroon into the quarterfinals, a feat that they haven’t accomplished since. They were the first African nation to progress to the quarterfinals and Roger Milla’s legend was cemented.
The amount of mileage that FIFA got from Roger Milla’s corner flag dance is staggering. It even spawned a terrible coca cola commercial just before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:
I get the idea of celebrating Africa’s most accomplished World Cup performer with a commercial just before the first World Cup on African soil, but good god is the commercial terrible as a whole. I’d expect that to be a sketch on the ESPY’s with the wording of the commercial than something FIFA and Coca Cola would make as a commercial, but then again this is commercials we’re talking about so whatever I guess
That was a great moment for African football in general cause it spawned multiple generations of talented individuals and teams that made progress as well, which is all the more sad on Cameroon’s side because since 1990, their record in the World Cup has been horrendous. Not once since 1990 have Cameroon made it past the group stage, with Cameroon missing the 2006 World Cup all together cause of failure to qualify. They’ve been successful in any other stage weirdly enough, with multiple African Cup of Nation titles, a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics and making it to the final of the 2003 Confederations Cup Final following the tragic death of Marc-Vivien Foe.
This year might be more of the same in the World Cup, where they’ll have to find something in them (sample size variance, transcendent performances) to get past three quality sides in Group A:
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor/TUR), Ndy Assembe (Guingamp/FRA), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor/TUR), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)
Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada/ESP), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas/TUR), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray/TUR), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille/FRA), Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes/FRA), Henri Bedimo (Lyon/FRA), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR/ENG), Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos/GRE)
Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor/TUR), Jean II Makoun (Rennes/FRA), Joel Matip (Schalke 04/GER), Stephane Mbia (Sevilla/ESP), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux/FRA), Alexandre Song (Barcelona/ESP), Cedric Loe (Osasuna/ESP), Edgar Sally (Lens/FRA)
Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea/ENG), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz/GER), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy/FRA), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient/FRA), Achille Webo (Fenerbahce/TUR), Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern/GER), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem/BEL)
The obvious headline player they have is Samuel Eto’o, who finished a weird season for Chelsea under his old Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho. It’ll be his fourth World Cup, having yet to make it past the group stage. He at times looked like a decent version of his old self. His pace however it was left was complemented by his instinctive runs that made him a sage striker that Chelsea needed. Unfortunately, he looked like a shell of his former self away from the friendly confines of Stamford Bridge, his performance being the epitome of a “bleh” Chelsea attack that ultimately helped cost them an EPL title. Alex Song was once a very good Arsenal midfielder who’s had his issues with playing time in Barcelona while former Tottenham left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto made the provisional list as well with his work with Championship side QPR.
Cameroon do have a couple of solid CB’s with Joel Matip and Stephane Mbia, the former a 22 year old who ranked 21st overall according to WhoScored in the Bundesliga while the latter being part of Sevilla’s Europa League triumph. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is an enticing attacking player who ranked 6th in dribble completed in the Bundesliga while netting 10 goals for Mainz 50. There’s obviously some talent on this squad, and the prospects of seeing Chuopo-Moting and Eto’o on the same field together would be cool as the torch of a previous generation would be passed on to the likes of Matip/Mbia/Moting. Their manager is Volker Finke, a former longstanding coach for 16 years with SC Freiburg who was heralded with the tactical revolution in Germany not so long ago and is tasked with doing something to that effect once again.
It’d be quite the accomplishment for Cameroon to end their putrid World cup showings post-1990 by making it through Group A. They wouldn’t be the first team to make it past a difficult group with few in the press expecting to do though making it past the likes of Croatia and Mexico for second place will be difficult. This could in fact be the swan song for Eto’o in the World Cup, though Roger Milla taught us otherwise. Moting and Matip will be neat to watch to as they’ll hopefully have 2-3 more WC appearances left in their odometer after Brazil. There’s the real possibility that Cameroon will be looking at another elimination in the group stage, another disappointment in the history of one of the more mercurial African sides. If that indeed is the faith of Cameroon in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we’ll at least take solace that we can go on YouTube and rewatch Roger Milla’s exploits again and again: