World Cup 2014 Previews, Group A: Cameroon

By Mike Cardillo

Team: Cameroon
Group: A
Schedule: June 13 vs. Mexico; June 18 vs. Croatia; June 23 vs. Brazil
World Cup Record: 4-9-7 (Best Finish: Quarterfinals, 1990)
Qualifying Form: Won African Qualifying Group I, then defeated Tunisia in two-leg playoff.

Manager: Volker Finke, a well-traveled 66-year-old German.

Player to Watch: Stéphane Mbia. Mbia was one of Harry Redknapp’s numerous high-priced flops at QPR last season. In an attempt to lower their wage bill, Mbia was loaned out to Sevilla, where he’s blossomed and helped the Spanish club win the Europa League. Mbia didn’t feature prominently in qualifying, but based on form deserves to crack the Cameron lineup.

Tactics/Style: Hard to gauge. Evergreen Samuel Eto’o will play somewhere in the starting XI, potentially wide which given his declining pace wouldn’t be very smart. Alexandre Song and Eyong Enoh will anchor the midfield. Cameroon are another African team plagued by the lack of a classic “No. 10” creative playmaker.

WAG of Note: Alex Song and wife Olivia are childhood sweethearts and appear to have a very happy relationship.

Reason to root for: The Indomitable Lions will have the best kit design in Brazil.

Reason to root against: Cameroon will likely be eliminated before anyone devises a reason to root against them.

Odds of winning: 500-to-1

Miscellany: Nobody might know exactly how old Eto’o is (officially) thanks to Jose Mourinho, but he remains the world’s highest-paid soccer player due to that absurd transfer to Anzi in Russia two years ago. This will be his fourth World Cup. By my count Eto’o and Gianluigi Buffon are the only two guys who’ll span both the 1998 and 2014 World Cups. … Defender Gaëtan Bong is front-runner for best name of the World Cup. … This will be the first World Cup since 1990 not to feature Rigobert Song in Cameroon’s squad. … Cameroon’s only match in 2014 has been a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Portugal.

Something else to consider: Twenty-four years after the fact, Roger Milla’s goal vs. Colombia remains Cameroon’s defining World Cup moment.

Last word: Cameroon doesn’t seem dynamic enough to get through this group. The Indomitable Lions defense is sound, but is there enough pace in this team to punish opponents on the counter attack? Eto’o might be ageless, but as we saw this season at Chelsea he’s nothing more than a poacher in the box, not a guy that can lift an entire attack as he previously could. Perhaps the best thing going for Cameroon is it plays Brazil last and by that time the hosts will probably have already clinched first place in the group.

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