On a balmy evening in the German city of Monchengladbach, Cameroon put in a performance which could be argued to be the best that they have produced since their manager Volker Finke took over about a year ago. A clear strategy, Cameroon effectively frustrated Germany’s impotent attack with their counters, in what has given the manager some food for thought ahead of Brazil.
Picking a line-up that was almost at full-strength, Coton Sport right-back Cedric Djeugoue was given another run-out – presumably to allow Finke to get a better look at him as potential back-up right back to Allan Nyom. Elsewhere, Samuel Eto’o was given a more central role in the front three, surrounded by Benjamin Moukandjo and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting – as the latter aimed to make it three goals out of three games in the pre-World Cup friendlies.
The way Cameroon started, fans of the Indomitable Lions were almost certainly fearing for their team, and the possibility of a morale-battering hefty loss to a German team riddled with quality loomed. Indeed, the Germans fired a warning shot within the first minute, as they tici-taca’d their way through on the edje of the Cameroon box before releasing Mario Gotze in front goal, but the resulting pass into the back of the net was ruled out offside.
Exploting the left-hand side by targeting Djeugoue– arguably Cameroon’s weakspot – Mario Gotze looked to be in for an easy time of it against one of the national team’s few domestically-based players, but the cutbacks from the byline largely failed to find their man throughout the first half.
Germany’s best chance of the half ended up coming down the right, however. With Matip drawn out, Germany exploited the space that was left behind the centre-back, slipping Thomas Muller through. Powering a shot at the near bottom-corner, Itandje managed to just about push it onto the post as it was fired underneath him, allowing Nicholas N’Koulou to knock it out for a corner.
Decent chances for Cameroon were relatively limited, as good build up play – especially with Henri Bedimo roaming forward down the left – and counter attacks largely failed to produce genuine goalscoring chances at the end of them. Samuel Eto’o – the player which drew a massive sense of anticipation from the crowd every time he got the ball – tested Roman Weidenfeller the most, but his turn and shot from about 8 yards out was comfortable for the Dortmund keeper.
Could be summed up as a “two-banks of four” system from Cameroon, Eto’o was often way further forward than everyone else, with their defensive commitment summed up by the performance of Choupo-Moting. He demonstrated why Finke likes to play him on the left-wing despite the more central role he plays for Mainz, with his excellent work rate in defence and ability to transition into counter-attacks with his long strides and purposeful dribbling working very well, as well as a good partnership down the left-hand side with Bedimo. An excellent last-ditch tackle on Thomas Muller was particularly evidential of this, keeping it at 0-0 at half-time.
Unexpectedly, it was Cameroon who broke the deadlock in the 61st minute, with Samuel Eto’o the man coming up with the goods. Managing to just get his toe on a cross from the left, it creeped into the bottom corner of the net, with Moukandjo almost taking the goal off him as it rolled over the line.
Germany responded very quickly however, and before they knew it Cameroon were behind. Despite keeping up the pressure after they scored, Germany fled down the other end to mount an attack, as Thomas Muller headed in the incoming cross past Charles Itandje – who had been relatively untested all game. Then, after a wonderful run from inside his own half from Moukandjo, Germany exploited the rare time the right-winger was not on defensive duty, as Podolski knocked it across the box for Andre Schurrle to tap-in.
Undeterred however, Cameroon continued their counter-attacking game and it came to fruition, pouncing on any loose passes as Germany attempted to kill the game. Driving into the box from the left-hand side, Choupo-Moting exploited the space he found himself in by curling a shot into the far corner with his right-foot – a just reward for all the hard-work he put in during the game – as he made it three goals in three friendlies this May/June.
For once, the post-match analysis for Cameroon shows far more positives than negatives. A clear strategy, Choupo-Moting and Moukandjo were excellent down the flanks, and their pace and drive was the ideal thing to have in a game, proving an intimidating force to the on looking German defence. Despite Germany being quite unimaginative, with their constant passing and no end-product making them look like a less-effective Spain, this counter-attack plan should work perfectly at the World Cup in theory.
Seeing as the other teams in their group are probably superior in quality, if the defence can soak up the pressure like they did in this match and then spring forward with the pace on either wing, this could be the formula that sees them through to the second round. Indeed, in the post-match press conference Finke revealed that this was likely to be the tactical plan in the first game against Mexico, but refused to be drawn on whether Eto’o, Choupo-Moting and Moukandjo are likely to continue together, or whether the prolific Lorient striker Vincent Aboubakar comes back into the team.
Only real concern was Cedric Djeugoue and Nicholas N’Koulou’s right side of defence, which certainly appeared a tad pourus, but with the stronger right-back Allan Nyom likely to take Djeugoue’s place in Brazil, this isn’t top of Finke’s priorities. However, one should remember that the Germany side they faced tonight were not on the top of their game, and could have been out of sight in the first ten minutes with a bit more composure.
A very satisfying evening for the people of Cameroon, the next step is maintaining this. A consistent, organised and well-thought out game plan could spur the Indomitable Lions to roar themselves beyond expectations, with their sights on the second round and beyond.
Words by Sam Crocker (@sam_crock)