Cameroon—World Cup 2022 profile—28
Today, with Cameroon, we continue to provide, in reverse alphabetical order, the profiles of the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Indomitable Lions are participating in their eighth World Cup. They departed at the Group Stage in all but the 1990 World Cup where they reached the Quarterfinals. In 1990 they beat Argentina 1-0 and were beaten by England 3-2 after extra time.
Cameroon have a storied history in African Football having won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, and 2017, and came in third in the latest edition 2021. But, curiously, while a number of their players are enjoying an upswing in their club careers, their national team form has dipped of late resulting in two losses in their last friendlies, used to prepare for Qatar.
Placed in Group G with Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia, Cameroon know they have their work cut out for them. Their hope is to upset one of the European sides, play the other even, and then take their chances against the tourney’s overall favorites, Brazil. When all is said and done, though, the Swiss and Brazilians are too strong for the Cameroonians and the Serbians have been playing very well of late. Expect the Lions to be domesticated by the end of their group stage. The colorful national team kit home colors are a green shirt with red and yellow highlights on the left shoulder, red shorts, and yellow socks with red and green lines at the top; the away colors are a yellow shirt with green and red highlights at the left shoulder, green shorts and red socks with green and yellow lines at the top
Cameroon, known as “Africa in miniature” (because it encompasses all major climates and vegetation of the continent, having five major geographic zones each with its dominant physical, climactic, and vegetative features) is a country of 183,569 square miles in west-central Africa which was first settled around 10,000 years ago and whose descendants, the Baka and Bantu led to the Sao culture and then the Bornu Empire. Portuguese sailors who reached the nation’s coast in 1472 called the area Shrimp River which became Cameroon in English following the mispronunciation of the Portuguese word for shrimp—Camaroes. The nation was ruled by the Germans, then the French and the British until Cameroon obtained its independence from France in 1960 and the UK in 1961.
The nation is now a unitary dominant-party presidential republic whose 27M people speak 250 native languages from multiple ethnic groups (the top three being Bamileke-Bamum-24%, Beti/Bassa-Mbam-22%, and Bui-Mandara-15%), are 60% Christian, 20% Muslim, and 19% traditional regional faiths. The nation has a GDP of $45B and an HDI score of 0.563 (medium-the 153 national rank) and is known for welcoming continental refugees from disparate diasporas. Music and dance are integral to the Cameroonian culture and encompass the traditional sounds of multiple ethnic subgroups as does their colorful fashion, cuisine, literature, and art.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers— Devis Epassy (Abha), Simon Ngapandouetnbu (Marseille), and Andre Onana (Inter Milan); Defenders— Nicolas Nkoulou (Aris), Enzo Ebosse (Udinese), Oumar Gonzalez (Ajaccio), Darlin Yongwa (Lorient), Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders), Olivier Mbaizo (Philadelphia Union), Collins Fai (Al-Tai), Jean-Charles Castelletto (Nantes), and Christopher Wooh (Rennes); Midfielders— Georges Mandjeck (Nea Salamis), Jean Onana (Lens), Gael Ondoua (Hannover), Samuel Gouet (Mechelen), Pierre Kunde (Olympiacos), Martin Hongla (Hellas Verona), and Olivier Ntcham (Swansea); Strikers—Leandre Tawamba (Al-Taawoun), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (Besiktas), Vincent Aboubakar (Al-Nassr), Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford), Jean-Pierre Nsame (Young Boys), Karl Toko Ekambi (Lyon), and Moumi Ngamaleu (Dynamo Moscow).
Path to Qatar
Cameroon received a bye to the Second Round of CAF Qualifiers and were placed in Group D—with Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Malawi—which they topped with 15 points and a =9-goal differential. In the Third Round, they were paired with Algeria and lost the first of the two-leg tie at home 0-1. But they then won away 2-1 and progressed to Qatar on the away goals rule.
Cameroon’s new and first-time coach, Rigobert Song, has his team playing a 4-3-3. His physically powerful team relies on wide attackers Karl Toko Ekambi and Moumi Ngamaleu feeding their center forward Vincent Aboubakar and are strong on set pieces. The Cameroon Football Federation’s President, none other than Samuel Eto’o handpicked his old teammate, Song, as coach, and has been pulling strings behind the scenes to strengthen what most acknowledge is one of the weakest Cameroonian teams to go to the World Cup.
Aside from the three above-mentioned, keeper Andre Onana doing well at Inter Milan, midfielder Zambo Anguissa who is having a fantastic start to the season at Napoli, and defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui. With at least one top player on every line, Cameroon should be able to play disciplined football.
Group and Tourney Prospects
It is unfortunate for Cameroon that they are not as strong as their Group G opponents and that they have to oppose the tournament’s overall favorite just to get to the Round of 16. The prospects are not good and in fact, the other three teams may well see Cameroon as the team they can all beat so the larger the margin the better. Expect the Africans to leave the tourney after their third match.
Photo: Cameroon’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Shutterstock ID: 2046317336, by Ettore Griffoni