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Cameroon World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 6:04 PM

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D RIGOBERT SONG Q&A
What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
Italia '90, when Cameroon really came of age as an international team. The whole country lived through that tournament with great passion, and young players like me dreamed of following in the team's footsteps.

Which of your team-mates should people look out for?
Samuel Eto'o can now really show the world what he can do. Patrick Mboma has a knack for getting us out of tight situations. And Geremi Njitap has not always played for his club (Real Madrid), so he will be keen to underline what a good player he is.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
People feel that we can reach the semifinals. We're not novices any more, we are the Olympic champions and have just won the African Nations Cup twice in succession. With our experience we can achieve something special.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
France are the favorites. They have the experience and are hitting form at the right time. Argentina are a very complete side, too.

Is there too much money in football?
No. We are paid to entertain, the rewards at the top are high, but the risks are there, too. It's a short career. You can work in an office for many years and have security, which in our profession is not really the case.

How they line up

The physical aggression Cameroon showed at Italia '90 has been toned down, but they still know how to get stuck in. While most would think the African approach would be one of technical trickery and spectacular flair, Cameroon play with an efficient touch, having ditched many of the unnecessary fancy frills.

Their attack is their strong point, complemented by pacy players and an abundant use of the wings. But they do tend to get caught out in the middle at times, while defensively they are often static and guilty of ball-watching.

Luckily, goalkeeper Boukar Alioum has emerged as one of the best on the continent in recent years. Coach Winfried Schafer has been lavish in his praise of Alioum, and he will be the first choice. There is a 20-year age gap between the two reserves, Jacques Songo'o (who has been to three previous World Cups) and Idriss Carlos Kameni, who was one of the heroes of the Under-23 side that won Olympic gold in Sydney.

Rigobert Song, whose eccentricities have made many a manager a nervous wreck, and Raymond Kalla make for an unlikely center-back pairing, but do both have an imposing presence. Bill Tchato has emerged over the past 18 months as the right-back, while Real Madrid's Geremi Njitap is on the left and makes plenty of runs forward down the flank.

Just in front of him is Pierre Wome, a tough tackler who can also slot into the left-back role if needed. Defensive cover will be provided by Lucien Mettomo, a recent English First Division winner with Manchester City, and Pierre Njanka, who is returning from injury and played at the last World Cup finals in France.

Marc-Vivien Foe is the midfield anchor but has shown a penchant recently to also get into good attacking positions just behind the front two. Salomon Olembe is supposed to be his partner but drifts out too wide at times. However, he has a quick burst of pace and a delicate touch, and is a major threat.

Lauren Etame-Mayer is on the right, with his willingness to run at defenses well documented. At Arsenal, he plays mainly at right-back, but Cameroon use him in midfield, where he gets much more opportunity to push forward.

In reserve are Nicolas Alnoudji, Joel Epalle -- based in Turkey and Greece respectively -- Nantes youth Eric Djemba-Djemba and Daniel Ngom Kome, who plays in the Spanish Second Division.

Samuel Eto'o and Patrick Mboma have developed a great understanding up front. Mboma appears to lope around the pitch but his finishing is deadly. The pacy Eto'o works harder and runs more at the defenders, but is often too ambitious and selfish. Pius N'Diefi has the talent to be a regular, particularly wide on the right of attack, but cannot get into the starting lineup. Other options are the England-based duo Joseph-Desire Job and Patrick Suffo.

From World Soccer magazine.


 
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