By Sam Crocker
After the Volker Finke years of false hope and tournament capitulation, the post-Finke age does not appear to look a lot different. With the Belgian Hugo Broos taking over in 2015, armed with a CV containing a stint in Algerian domestic football, the chances of Cameroon’s fortunes being significantly different to the past few years seem relatively unlikely. Once again, it looks as if the fundamental restrictions placed on them by their national pool of players limits their chances of making a splash in Gabon.
Continuing the recent tradition of not making a fuss out of qualification, the Indomitable Lions breezed through their group, taking advantage of CAF’s new more-open qualification format. Dumping Mauritania, South Africa and The Gambia out and remaining unbeaten in the process, the only two goals they conceded coming in a 2-2 draw against South Africa in Limbe, in a story that sounds awfully familiar.
Whilst the efficiency with which they dispatch lesser teams has rarely been in question, it is Cameroon’s ability to ‘do it’ on the bigger stage that limits them, with Broos’ minor revamping of various parts of the squad seemingly doing little to plaster over the flaws they have in their squad.
Despite the plaster not being able to cover the wounds, the group they have been placed in for AFCON 2017 has been kind to them, and may allow them to limp through from Group A to the quarter finals at least. However, don’t expect many to get too excited about what these guys can do.
Pace and the potency of the strikers they have at their disposal is the primary method through which Cameroon can cause damage, and attempt to hit teams on the counter to take maximise this. With a sponge-like defence that can absorb a lot of pressure with relative competence, using the pace of Benjamin Moukandjo and the other attacking options allows them to break forward with haste. Given their creative impotence and masses of defensive midfielders at their disposal – of which Broos has somehow managed to find even more of during his time in charge – this system is as much out of necessity as it is capability.
Defence – There is little doubt about the foundations upon which Cameroon are built upon. Looking back towards their own goal, the back five of the Indomitable Lions will be one of the most experienced in Gabon, and can be trusted to frustrate the opposition. Led by Nicholas N’Koulou at the heart of the backline, their fullback options have capacity to do the business at either end of the field, whilst in Fabrice Ondoa they once again found a keeper whose faltering club career has no impact on the performances for his country.
Creativity – The age old problem for Cameroon and perhaps African football more generally, the lack of central presence to assist the forward line in doing some goals has been a constant issue holding them back, contributing to a laborious style of play and lack of cutting edge. The mediocre Edgar Salli has been called upon to provide this in the past, but without a creative midfielder to put them in dangerous positions, the work of the likes of very talented Benjamin Moukandjo and Vincent Aboubakar becomes increasingly difficult.
Vincent Aboubakar – The experienced 24-year-old will be the man leading the line once again. An incredibly talented goalscorer, if he can overcome the lack of creative support, his goals will be vital to propelling his country forward.
The Hipster’s Choice
Fabrice Ondoa – If there’s anything that Cameroon can definitely do, it’s get the best out of their goalkeepers. Much like Charles Itandje before him, in Fabrice Ondoa they have a keeper whose domestic career isn’t exactly going to plan, but saves the goods for when he pulls on the shirt of his country.
Hugo Broos – A stalwart centre-back for Anderlecht in the 1970s and 80s, the Cameroonian FA have continued their policy of hiring from outside the merry-go-round of European coaches in Africa. With some successes in Belgium as a manger, his most recent experience was a stint with JS Kabylie and NA Dey Hussein in Algeria.
By The Numbers (courtesy of We Global Football)
- Cameroon is one of the in-form teams in the tournament having lost just two of their past 25 matches against African competition.
- Cameroon ranks 4th to last in average goal differential among the 16 participants. The 3 teams below them are coincidentally the other 3 teams in Group A.
- Just 3 of Cameroon’s past 24 matches have been decided by more than one goal.
- Although recent form has been encouraging, Cameroon has not defeated a WGF Top 80 opponent since 2014 over the course of 12 matches.
- Due to the quality of the group, no team has higher odds to win their group than Cameroon at 54.6%.
- Cameroon is projected to win Group A with an average point projection of 6.04.
- Although Cameroon has an 81% chance to advance, they have just a 1 in 8 chance, or 12.2%, of being champions in Africa. They have the 3rd highest odds in the field.
Quarter-finals – They can probably limp through behind Gabon in Group A, but will almost certainly come unstuck against whoever of Algeria, Tunisia or Senegal they face-up against in the knockouts.