By Sam Crocker (@sam_crock)
With Cameroon’s pre-World Cup friendlies officially up and running, a series of absences did not stop them overcoming a relatively tame Macedonia side, as they ensured a positive start to their preparations.
Having arrived in their Austrian training camp this week, which had a level of seclusion that no doubt features in one of Arsene Wenger’s anti-brand expanding pre-season wet dreams, manager Volker Finke decided to opt for an alternative line-up in light of various niggles and gahhhs that his players had picked up. Not wanting to risk them, not even the stunning high-altitude scenery could heal the suffering players, with Samuel Eto’o, Vincent Aboubakar, Jean II Makoun, Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, Stephane Mbia, Charles Itandje, Aurelien Chedjou and Edgar Salli making up the hefty list of names that would not be risked.
With a number of these players likely to be starting had Finke gone with his first-choice XI, a more experimental set of players were picked, giving us a chance to see some of the less well-known players. The surprise of the 28-man squad – Coton Sport’s Cedric Djeugoue – started at right-back, whilst Sammy N’Djock got a rare run-out in goal and Fabrice Olinga started on the right-hand side. With the Djeugoue and Olinga touted as likely drop-outs when the squad is cut from 28 to 23-men, this provided an excellent opportunity to alter the manager’s mind before the squad is finalized next Monday.
A slightly bizarre choice, the Kufstein arena in Austria was the setting for this game, as the turn-out proved to be very meager, failing to fill up the equally-meager 5000 capacity stadium in a game that clearly did not captivate the locals’ imagination. And after the first-half, they were probably wishing they stayed at home, after the two teams played out a fairly drab affair.
Having the majority of the possession, Alex Song was the one who dictated the attacks of the Cameroon team, as he got the opportunity to settle into the deep-lying playmaker role that he clearly seeks to become. Despite pinging a variety of impressive looking balls about the pitch, Cameroon had an all-too-familiar lack of imagination in their play, with not many clear-cut chances being created.
All excitement was largely contained to a 30-second period. With Eric Choupo-Moting finding some space to the left of the goal, his well-hit shot was deflected onto the post, before Landry N’Guemo forced a good save moments later from the recycled rebound.
Other than a Webo header going wide from a deep Djeugoue cross, Trajkovski pulling a shot wide, and several appalling long-range efforts from N’Guemo, there wasn’t really a lot to be captivated by in the first half.
The deadlock was broken about five minutes into the second-half though. With Olinga cutting in on his left foot, his deflected shot fell to Achille Webo about 8 yards out, who showed impressive athleticism to overhead kick it into the goal. Whilst he was pretty-much an assured member of the squad before this game, his shoulder injury that he generated from the overhead kick has cast doubt over his ability to play in Brazil, as he signaled for a substitute as he attempted to celebrate.
Replaced by Mohammed Idrissou, Cameroon started to put the pressure more on Macedonia. With Bedimo going unchallenged as he ran from the halfway line, Eric Choupo-Moting could not finish after he was put in on the left-side again, before an attempted clearance hit the back of a Macedonia player, before running out for a corner – with the surrounding Idrissou, N’Guemo or Enoh unable to poke the ball in.
However, it was not all plain-sailing for Cameroon. With Bedimo getting caught in possession on the left-side, the resulting cross was extremely well-saved by sub goalkeeper Guy N’dy Assembe, as he spread himself very well to deny Illjoski.
Cameroon secured the win 6 minutes from time in the end. Some nice build up play involving substitute Benjamin Moukandjo saw the Macedonia defender eventually kick the ball against another substitute in Cedric Loe, before it fell to Choupo-Moting. Finding some space, he hit the ball on the turn as it was bouncing, as he generated enough power for it to fly into the far corner of the net.
After a late Idrissou header was well-saved after a Moukandjo cross, the match was a solid win for Cameroon, that would probably be described as “professional”, had there been any competitive aspects to it. They kept the ball well which will please Finke, but the lack of cutting edge once again from the Indomitable Lions will be of concern – especially ahead of their tougher opposition friendlies against Paraguay and Germany this week.
Player ratings (/5)
Sammy N’Djock – 2/5 – Not much to do. Flapped at a few crosses, but will still probably go as third choice keeper.
Cedric Djeugoue – 3/5 – Solid performance in what is only his second cap. Something for Finke to consider
Danny Nounkeu – 3/5 – Didn’t have to deal with much, but no dramas.
Joel Matip – 3/5 – As above.
Henri Bedimo – 3/5 – Got up and down well, contributed to attacks, but will be unhappy with defensive mistake.
Eyong Enoh – 3/5 – Recycled ball well, as he is expected to do.
Landry N’Guemo – 2/5 – Needs to shoot less. Indifferent performance overall.
Alex Song – 4/5 – Most creative player in the centre. May not get as much time against better teams though.
Fabrice Olinga – 3/5 – Fairly uninspiring. Looked lively at times, but lacked creativity.
Eric Choupo-Moting – 4/5 – Cameroon’s biggest threat, despite being on the wing. Took goal well – could have scored more.
Achille Webo – 4/5 – Not existent most of the game, but very nice goal scored.
Guy N’dy Assembe – 3/5 – Not much to do, but made a very good save after coming out at half-time
Momo Idrissou – 3/5 – Lacked mobility of Webo, but more of a focal point.
Nicholas N’Koulou – 3/5 – Not much time on pitch; not much to do.
Cedric Loe – 3/5 – As above.
Allan Nyom – 3/5 – As above.
Benjamin Moukandjo – 3/5 – Added something a bit extra. Could be very useful impact sub in Brazil.