Cameroon Football: Back to Basics

Cameroon National Team Players

Cameroon's football has been largely dominated by structural and administrative issues – and will continue to be until 28 February 2018 has passed – but Friday's 1st September 2017 demoralising defeat at Uyo in Nigeria and Monday’s 4th September 2017 disappointing draw and subsequent crashing out of World Cup contention in 2018 showed there are bigger issues to deal with.

In losing 4-0 at Uyo-Nigeria and drawing 1-1 in Yaoundé, Cameroon showed tactically they are nowhere near their rivals for the lone spot in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. More worryingly, they lacked hunger and they don't look like a team.

I genuinely don't know what Hugo Broos is saying to them on the training ground. It is unbelievable what we watched against Nigeria. They were making such basic mistakes.

Were there any positives for Cameroon? No. Absolutely none. After the dismal Confederations Cup outing in Russia this summer I predicted Cameroon needs to change its approach to get back to winning ways after surprising the entire nation in the last African Cup of Nations 2017 in Gabon. Obviously I haven't changed my mind.

It was a just a shambles from a team which wants to develop and qualify for Russia 2018 and also plans to host Africa in 2019. Cameroon missed the World Cup in 2006 through complacency in their last match against Egypt after putting up a fight in Abidjan in 2005. It is the same old Cameroon, the same old problems.

If Cameroon doesn’t sort its problems out, they're in a world of trouble. They're in a world of trouble anyway.

Cameroon's biggest area of concern was the midfield

Cameroon set up with a 4-3-3 in effect and that's fine if everyone knows the system and knows what they are doing – but they didn't.

Sebastien Siani and Arnaud Djoum were in a midfield two, with Zambo Anguissa acting as the relay, but the central midfielders really lack the athleticism to help out their defensive players.

Nigeria kept picking the ball up in midfield and had huge spaces in front of them. There were at least half a dozen times in the first half where Nigeria were running at their backline and there was no midfielder in view – and we're talking 60- or 70-metre gaps between centre-halves and midfielders.

Cameroon's problems in this area are well documented in their squad- Choupo Moting came on for Ngamaleu at half-time and made a slight difference. Cameroon changed the shape and looked more solid.

OK, they conceded two more goals but that's because they were trying to get back into the game.

Whether Cameroon have one or two holding midfielders, Hugo Broos must tell them they have got to hold. Do not move.

Cameroon captain Benjamin Moukandjo isn't a holding midfielder nor a winger because he didn’t run more than he should have, but he is a good talker and a good passer. He's had to take away his runs forward but he has embraced it because that's what the manager wants him to do.

The team benefits because he's playing that role.

Zambo Anguissa came to the fold after skipping AFCON 2017 and is now one of the best midfielders in the team. The role he’s playing is not the one he plays for in Marseille but he's embraced it and the coach has helped him reach that level by telling him what to do. Even though the tenacity is not there. If he had better holding midfielders, he would look a whole lot better.

The buck lies with Broos and his coaching staff

In this 4-2-3-1, the Cameroonian players didn't know if the central midfielders were marking Ogenyi Onazi and Obi Mikel or if the centre-halves were marking them.

Part of Cameroon's problem is that there are few leaders on the pitch who are taking responsibility and telling people who to pick up.

You need that because if the system is going wrong then you can demand that off your team-mates.

But the manager creates the system and the discipline within the system. If there is no discipline and no work on it every time they meet, then players are not going to be able to fix that during a game.

So what can they do? Change the manager? It sounds drastic because Broos has done so much for Cameroon since he came in. We know what he has done-he won the AFCON 2017 against all odds and qualified the team for the Confederations Cup. But all good things must come to an end.

I don't think he knew what to do as Cameroon were being overrun or what was wrong. That's the crime in it. It's not making the mistake; it's not knowing what it is.

The performance during the African Nations Cup Finals in Gabon was everything you want Cameroon to be – but it was one performance. They looked like a bunch of players who wanted to prove people wrong.

It shows they can do it – why don't they do it more often? The responsibility always falls with the manager and the coaches.

'Rohr outwitted Broos- but it wasn't hard'

Nigeria manager Gernot Rohr got one over on Broos tactically – but it wasn't difficult to do. Every one of the Nigerian players runs back as soon as they lose possession.

Then they just kept hitting them on the break with their pace.

Nigeria were very well drilled in what they were doing and they actually dropped off early in the game. It was a surprise that they didn't press and let Cameroon have the ball.

When Cameroon had possession and Nigeria needed a breather they just dropped off and got everyone back in their half really deep. They just waited. And waited. They got their breath and then broke quickly.

But the reason they did that was because they knew when Cameroon threw numbers forward, the pace of Odion Ighalo and Victor Moses on the counter-attack would cause all sorts of problems. That's exactly what happened.

No matter what tactics they did or didn't use, they ran more, wanted it more and played with more passion and desire. First and foremost you need that.

Factors plaguing Cameroonian football

The era of lamentation has ended as the revelation of the mystery behind their poor performance of the recent African champions during the World Cup 2018 qualifying process lies with poor casting and lack of proper follow-up of players at various levels of the national team.

It has been revealed by the Switzerland-based football observatory CIES in its January 2016 report that African countries perform poorly due to the endemic age cheating at youth level, citing Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon as teams that fielded the youngest players among 50 sampled. Their national teams in 2015 had players with ages ranging from 24.7, 25.1 and 25.3 years respectively, but ended as underachievers.

Before the release of this report, there have been allegations of age cheating from all angles at several times. However, this result must be analysed carefully insofar as footballers born in Africa tend to be older than they claim to be, stated the report.

Nigeria and Ghana have regularly won world titles at youth levels, showing the strength of African football at junior level, but how much of that have we witnessed at the senior level?

With the immense talent on the continent, only 3 teams including Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana have ever reached the quarter finals of the World Cup.

No matter how we look away from the bias of fielding overage players, it is important to note that it only results to a short-term success and never long term which only fades in a twinkle of an eye.

What next for the Cameroon Football Federation?

The world football governing body, FIFA, has created a normalisation committee to temporarily manage the affairs of the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) according to the status of the institution.

This decision rocked the Cameroon football world especially as the country is preparing to host the 2019 AFCON.

The panel to be appointed by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will oversee elections by March 2018 to replace disputed polls in 2015 for the Cameroon federation board.

FIFA’s intervention comes amid speculation Cameroon could be stripped of hosting the next African Cup of Nations in June-July 2019.

The in-fighting which has been going on within the football family since 2013 led to the setting up of a second normalisation committee in four years. The disgraced and badly elected Tombi a Roko Sidiki conceded that FIFA’s action in creating a Normalisation Committee at FECAFOOT is in the best interest of football in Cameroon.

It is now that Cameroon football authorities should come together for the reconstruction of football at different layers in the country.

The way forward – Back to Basics

Cameroonian football over the years has evolved both in organisation and performance, in the female and male categories alongside government’s influence, yet much focus is shifting from past glories and failures to what the future holds for Cameroonian football.

In the midst of all these glories and experiences drawn from past failures bestowed in the football arena of Cameroon, President Biya has created the National Football Academy, ANAFOOT in line with his message to the youths on February 10 2010. The football academy has as mission, the initiation and training of young footballers, initial and continuous training of trainers on theory and practice and development of national expertise on football. The institution will also be charged with the collection, archiving and diffusion of all football-related documentation in Cameroon.

The future of Cameroon’s football depends on the construction of sports infrastructure, funding, management of activities related to football and the promotion of sports through diverse programmes.


Elume Raymond

Sports Analyst

Source: Bamenda Online

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