Eto'o calls for unity as Cameroon battle for World Cup place

Posted by Firdose Moonda

Samuel Eto'o has hit a patch of form ahead of World Cup qualifier.GettyImagesSamuel Eto'o has hit a patch of form ahead of the World Cup qualifier.

The second leg of the only goalless match of the first round of the final phase of African qualifying for Brazil 2014 will be the one to watch this weekend. If Tunisia are to take full advantage of sneaking through the back door thanks to Cape Verde's fielding of an ineligible player, they will have to do it in Yaounde, where home fans could help Cameroon's fractured side come together.

The Indomitable Lions have been asked to stop being their own worst enemies by their marquee man, Samuel Eto'o. Known for infighting, Cameroon's squad have, according to Eto'o, taken things to a new level by refusing to pass the ball to him during the first leg against Tunisia.

In the past there have been strained relationships between Eto'o and some players, with the forward also criticising the management, and serving a suspension for taking part in a players' strike that caused friction with the Cameroon Football Federation.

However, Cameroon coach Volke Finke dismissed Eto'o's allegation as "kindergarten talk" and said he watched replays and did not notice the striker being ostracised. Eto'o is not convinced and delivered a sermon about the way to play a team game. "You are obliged to pass the ball even to your worst enemy, especially when he is in a good position to receive it."

Eto'o is hopeful he will be the man in that position again. His form has taken an upward curve at Chelsea, where he only managed one goal in his first 10 matches but has since netted three times in the last two games. "I know how to score goals and I know how to make the team play," he said.

Cameroon have played in six of the last eight World Cups and Eto'o believes if they can forget their personal feelings and play as a team, they will be in Brazil.

Tunisia have not made any announcements of the sort. Quietly, they are watching the shenanigans of their opposition and boosting their ranks.

They've made seven changes to the side that played Cameroon in the first leg, bringing back midfielders Jamel Saihi and Fabien Camus. Having failed to score at home, they will have to do so in Yaounde but coach Ruud Krol admitted it will be a tricky task as they also look to avoid conceding.

"In Tunis, we played to score and avoid conceding, but this time we'll be playing to avoid conceding first and then try to knock in the killer punch. Our objective has changed," he said. With Cameroon set to attack from the first whistle, this clash would be the dogfight of the final round.

Senegal have promised Ivory Coast the same. After going 3-1 down in the first leg, Senegal must score two unanswered goals in Casablanca, where the match is being played because of crowd violence in Senegal during last year's Nations Cup qualifying. They are without Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba -- the first through suspension, the second because he was dropped. Ivory Coast hold the upper hand, having only lost one competitive match this year.

In Calabar, Ethiopia's coach Sewnet Bishaw says he is bracing himself for the "biggest match of my life." His team have to overturn a 2-1 deficit against a strong Nigerian side, who are favoured to finish off their East African opposition. Ethiopia have never qualified for a World Cup and have South African based striker Getaneh Kebede back for the crucial match.

Stephen Keshi, Nigeria's big boss, has taken a typically cautious approach. "Ethiopia are still a threat because they are a very good side and have been together for up to five years, unlike our team which is relatively young and new," he said. "We have not qualified and we must not let down our guards."

Burkina Faso will be thinking a similar thing. The Stallions have a 3-2 lead to defend in Algeria on Tuesday and have received a major boost in Alain Traore's return to full fitness. Algeria need a single goal at home, something midfielder Mehdi Lacen accepts will be a tough ask. "The responsibility is huge and we are all aware of that," he said. "Once we are on the field, we will do everything to win."

Egypt have promised the same, although their match seems a foregone conclusion after their 6-1 defeat in the first leg against Ghana. The Pharaohs need five goals and will have to have an impenetrable defence if they have any hope of qualifying for 2014.

It seems improbable but recent developments suggest it is not impossible. Egypt's premier club, Al-Ahly, won the Champions League last weekend in an effort that showed the difference support can make. Amid tight security, 30,000 fans will be allowed into the 30 June Stadium for the match. Egypt also beat former African champions Zambia in the lead-up as a sign of their intent.

Ghana have been preparing in Istanbul and are confident of their chances of featuring in Brazil. The country's sports minister, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, had this to say ahead of the match: "We are going to Brazil and no man born of a woman can stop us."

First leg scores
Ivory Coast 3-1 Senegal
Ethiopia 1-2 Nigeria
Tunisia 0-0 Cameroon
Ghana 6-1 Egypt
Burkina Faso 3-2 Algeria

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