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Team preview: Cameroon

June 3, 2010
Latham By Brent Latham
Special to ESPN.com
(Archive)

The Indomitable Lions have been somewhat synonymous with African soccer since their World Cup quarterfinal run in 1990, but their bite hasn't matched their roar since. The Lions have managed only one win in their last nine World Cup matches, exiting after the first round in 1994, '98 and '02, while missing out completely in 2006.

Cameroon had a difficult qualifying campaign but emerged atop a group that included Togo, Gabon and Morocco. The Lions were relatively quiet at the African Nations Cup, edging into the quarters where they were beaten soundly by eventual champion Egypt. Nevertheless, Samuel Eto'o heads an experienced team with serious aspirations of making some noise in South Africa.

Coach: Paul Le Guen

The Frenchman boasts a successful career at the club level, mostly in France. He is known as an offensive-minded strategist, likely to deploy multiple attacking options when possible. After the Lions suffered a difficult start to their qualifying campaign, Le Guen helped Cameroon find some offense when he took over for German Otto Pfister.

Style of play

The Lions will line up in a 4-3-3, with two wingers supporting a lone striker, likely to be the towering Mohamadou Idrissou. Eto'o will be nominally placed on one of the flanks but will have the entire field at his disposal, and he will pop up everywhere. Behind the front line, Cameroon boasts a large contingent of steely midfielders but few creative options, so most of the flair will come from the forwards.

Players to watch

1. Rigobert Song. The veteran defender has played in three World Cups, dating to 1994 when he made his first appearance at age 17. But Song has lost a few steps along the way and many question if he can still keep up with the pace of the international game.

2. Samuel Eto'o. Watching Cameroon means watching Eto'o. The offense runs largely through him, so much of the Lions' success will come down to just how active the Inter Milan playmaker can be in the face of frequent man marking.

3. Joel Matip. The towering German-born youngster seems to have won Le Guen's confidence after a solid season at Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. Just 18 years old, Matip may see some significant minutes in midfield for the Lions.

Who's hot

Mohamadou Idrissou. The 6-foot-3 target man scored nine Bundesliga goals this season for Freiburg, three of them in his last two games in May.

Who's not

Geremi Njitap. Known simply as Geremi, the defender saw plenty of game action in Turkey but was forced to leave Newcastle United over the winter to find playing time after losing his spot.

Three key questions

1. Can the Lions recapture that 1990 magic? Cameroon is well past the point of resting its hat on that 1990 run. The Lions missed the World Cup in 2006 and fans are ready for some new triumphs in South Africa.

2. Will their defense be overrun? Song and Geremi bring experience to the defense, but the consensus is that they are too slow to keep up with the game's blazing wingers. Holland and Japan will test that theory, while Denmark poses a more physical challenge.

3. Will Cameroon rely too heavily on Eto'o? The midfield is full of destroyers, and there are some goal scorers on the front line, but with so much of Cameroon's creative play falling on the shoulders of one man, opponents will throw everything into marking Eto'o out of games.

Projected lineup

G Carlos Kameni, Espanyol (Spain)
D Geremi, Ankaragucu (Turkey)
D Rigobert Song, Trabzonspor (Turkey)
D Nicolas N'Koulou, AS Monaco (France)
D Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tottenham (England)
M Jean Makoun, Olympique Lyon (France)
M Alexandre Song, Arsenal (England)
M Landry N'Guemo, Celtic (Scotland)
F Achille Emana, Real Betis (Spain)
F Samuel Eto'o, Inter Milan (Italy)
F Mohamadou Idrissou, SC Freiburg (Germany)