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Indomitable Lions lose their bite

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Paul Fletcher | 08:30 UK time, Sunday, 20 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Pretoria

Cameroon manager Paul Le Guen has run a seven-day, 150-mile ultra-marathon across the Moroccan desert - but at the World Cup in South Africa he could not mould a team with anything like the required staying power.

The Indomitable Lions, defeated in their opening game against Japan, became the first side to be knocked out of the tournament when they surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Denmark in Pretoria on Saturday evening.

"It is really disappointing both for us and the continent of Africa," said defender Sebastian Bassong afterwards, the Totttenham defender speaking in a virtual whisper.

Bowing out so early was not the in the script for a nation with a proud World Cup history, having qualified for the tournament six times with a best finish of a quarter-final place in 1990. Le Guen himself had described emulating the achievements of 20 years ago as a "reasonable objective".

It also continued the disappointing form of African teams at this World Cup, with Ghana's 1-0 win over Serbia the only victory in 11 games so far.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o (right)Cameroon were unable to hang onto the lead given them by Samuel Eto'o (right) - photo: Getty

Perhaps Cameroon's failure is not all that surprising. They have not won a match since their 3-2 win over Zambia at the African Cup of Nations on 17 January, a run that now stretches to nine games, while their only victory at the World Cup since their Roger Milla inspired exploits in 1990 was a 1-0 triumph over Saudi Arabia in 2002.

Yet Cameroon, who will play the Netherlands in their final match in South Africa, did appear to have the personnel to qualify from their group.

Samuel Eto'o is a world class striker, while Pierre Webo and Achille Emana were excellent on Saturday and Alex Song was an assured presence in midfield.

And for the first 15-minutes at Loftus Versfeld it looked as though the homemade poster I saw suggesting 'a daily Danish dinner is prepared for hungry Lions to eat' was not too wide of the mark.

The Indomitable Lions started the match with an enthusiasm, desire and incisiveness that suggested they could savage their startled opponents, a point further underlined when a terrible defensive error gifted Eto'o his early goal.

But Cameroon were at least partially at fault for both Denmark goals, with left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto caught out of position each time. To be fair, he was a little unlucky for the second, caught up the pitch after an attack broke down. Substitute Jean Makoun filled in for him and goalscorer Dennis Rommedahl breezed past him with embarrassing ease.

Having said that, Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen told me afterwards that he felt Cameroon had too often thrown too many men forward and left too much space in behind for the Danes to exploit.

The African side also squandered several good chances and frequently lost composure in vital areas as the match wore on.

Cameroon had 23 attempts at goal and overall I thought they were slightly unfortunate to lose a magnificent game of football, but to focus solely on Saturday is to fail to grasp the bigger picture and there are obviously serious problems within the camp - with many revolving around the coach.

Le Guen included nine uncapped players in his provisional World Cup squad and, as his selections here in South Africa clearly illustrate, he has not worked out his best team.

Paul Le GuenCoach Paul Le Guen's job could be on the line after Cameroon's early exit - photo: Getty

The coach was criticised by his own players after the defeat against Japan for a team selection that saw playing Eto'o on the right, the inclusion of the inexperienced Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joel Matip and the decision to leave Arsenal midfielder Alex Song on the bench.

Eto'o, who threatened to pull out of the squad before the tournament started after very public criticism from Milla, said in the aftermath of the Japan defeat: "I played where Paul told me to, defending the flank.

"I am the best striker in the history of Cameroonian and African football, but I have to play where the coach tells me to."

Choupo-Moting and Matip did not feature at all on Saturday, while Eto'o was restored to a more central position with veteran Geremi taking his place on the right side.

Bassong was asked after the match whether there was a problem with the spirit in the squad. He exhaled loudly before answering: "I don't know. There are a lot of small problems - it was difficult.

"It is a lot of details that made us fail and we have not been at a good level - that is it."

For the final 20 minutes on Saturday Le Guen was at the edge of his technical area imploring his team to push forward.

After the final whistle the Cameroon substitutes remain seated, not one stood up for several seconds, while their coach went along the line attempting to shake each one's hand.

The players on the field made their way towards the dressing room quicker than any team I have ever seen. They had disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Quite whether Le Guen disappears from view in Cameroon is anyone's guess. He only lasted seven months at Glasgow Rangers before he was sacked in January 2007 and his contract at Paris St Germain was not renewed in May 2009.

The Frenchman has insisted that he will not resign from his current post but several seasoned observers of the Indomitable Lions that I spoke to after Saturday's match suggested that the 46-year-old could pay with his job for his team's poor run of form.

When he was appointed in July 2009 his subsequent arrival in Yaounde prompted three days of festivities from footballing authorities who felt they had pulled off a major coup. I doubt they feel that way now.

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at


  • Comment number 1.

    Cameron deserved a point last night. At the least.

    True, they were very 'open' defensively, but that only made for a more exciting game as they pushed player after player forwards.

    Had luck been on their side, they would have got their just desserts.

    A shame to see them going home so soon whilst other - duller - teams remain.

  • Comment number 2.

    It was finally a very attractive match, from both sides. Very open play, lots of activity. It's a shame they have nothing to play for but their honour, it would have been a big ticket to see Cameroon v Holland with both teams having something to play for. Now, thanks to Denmark Holland are through and Cameroon are out.

  • Comment number 3.

    Cameroon were poor. Denmark deserved to win. Well done the Danes.

  • Comment number 4.

    I fully respect Cameroon and Denmark for actually supplying me with a good game of football to watch last night. I for one have been exceptionally bored with the majority of games so far in this tournament but last night, even without an interest in seeing either side progress, I found myself on the edge of my seat engrossed in the game before me.

    I am sorry to see Cameroon out at this point as they put in real effort and deserved as stated before at least a point....

  • Comment number 5.

    They needed to practice their shooting I think. They had enough chances to win 3 football matches. Not enough of the chances fell to Eto'o. If only he played through the middle I am sure he would have put some of them away.

  • Comment number 6.

    #3, Cameroon were not poor. Be fair mate. They played well but I believe the coach did not make some necessary adjustments. I will repeat here what I wrote in another blog response. Cameroon's problem in both games was that Assou-Ekotto, the left back, was doing what Gareth Bale does for Tottenham (a converted left back becoming a left winger). In both games, Assou-Ekotto was way upfield in attack and hence all 3 goals in 2 games against Cameroon came from this problem. So, the coach should have let him play the role (which he played well by the way) but put a left back behind him to stay home!!! That is what Cameroon should have done at least in this game. Had they done that they probably would have won it.

    If I was Cameroon's coach I would have lined up as follows, if nothing in the 2nd half to neutralize Denmark's right winger's effectiveness):

    Mbia, Nkoulou, Bassong, Bong
    A. Song
    Geremi, Emana, Assou-Ekotto
    Eto, Webo

    Having said that, I still would have played Kameni in goal though...he is a much better goalie than Hamidou.

    Finally, there is something endemic to most African countries in the world stage - what I consider Arsenal's problem: too many chances needed to score. Cameroon had 17 shots ON GOAL, to manage only 1 goal!!! 17 shots and 1 goal! That is horrific! Same problem with Ghana earlier. And therein lies one of the main differences between African teams and the other teams on the world stage on the pitch at least - lack of composure and clinical finish! Against any team in the world, you give Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands etc 17 shots ON GOAL, you are looking at at least 5 goals scored! African teams will score 1 or none at all. That is one of the biggest problems with African football (on the pitch at least) and it was fully on display today with Ghana and Cameroon. African coaches need to figure out how to teach their strikers to be more composed infront of goal when they don their national team shirts.

  • Comment number 7.

    Paul Le Guen is partly is to be blame but not totally.

    Eto'o is truly world class but the midfield is filled with defensive midfielders and they totally lack creativity. The defence has never performed as a unit, and all the mistakes Essou Akotto makes for Spurs he makes the same for Cameroon.

    The warning signs for Cameroon came well before this world cup, they barely looked a team in the african nations cup, no cohesion and defensive mistakes all the time.

    African teams need to produce better players, less DMs and more smaller technical AMs. This is not the premier league this is international football.

    Le Guen made a mistake dropping Kameni, he may be crazy he may be eccentric but he can be brilliant, he'd have red Romadhals intentions and made one of his incredible trademark saves.

    The lack of progression of non west african sides accept Egypt of course means that a team like Nigeria which has gone backwards totally now Shittu and Ethuhu make team when they clearly are not good enough. And they still finish 3rd in the African Cup of Nations.

    Its not as easy as producing better players I know, but some organisations helps, England have been struggling with quality and Italy and Portugal can't produce a decent striker, and African Goverments have higher priotities than football.

    Ivory Coast have a super talented squad that has been held back by some poor coaches. Henri Michel and Halilhodžić didn't look like they could sort out that poor defence.

  • Comment number 8.

    I too thought they were going to savage the Danes, but everyone now except Le Guen understands the need for defensive stability, he is even a worse manager than Rafa.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well done the Danes in a very good match last night. Cameroon played well and with a bit more composure around the penalty box might have got something out of this game.

    As a post above said Cameroon had their problems coming into the WC. Losing to Japan was a huge failing.

    The real emerging issue at this WC so far concerns the failure of African teams to build on their earlier progress at these tournaments. Nigeria and SAfrica look as if they are going very soon. Ghana are looking at a do or die against the Germans, Algeria are uncertain and if the IC lose tonight and Portugal win then we may well be looking at a wipe out after the group stage.

  • Comment number 10.

    #4 has got it spot on. Thank you to both Cameroon and Denmark for actually trying to entertain. Unlucky for Cameroon but well done to the Danes. Either side could have won but they both deserve some credit.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think A Song was the best player in the cameroon team and i say this because he was told he was a holding midfielder,like at arsenal where he usually hangs back at the edge of the centre circle and attacks every now and then and when cameroon had troubles passing. He was in space and the attack progressed.

    But I think cameroon were still poor and deserved to lose but in both goals it was bendtner who came close, taking the defender with him an he opened up space.

  • Comment number 12.

    He came close to the ball, taking the defender with him and he opened up space for romerdahl to go in.

  • Comment number 13.

    Both teams could have won no doubt. Denmark created the biggest scoring chances, and they allso created alot of those chances Cameroon got.

  • Comment number 14.

    Cameroon played well but credit Denmark who took what little of the chances they created. It is a shame for African football because looking at the tournament so far apart from - the South Americans (Brazil not included...yet) - they could have gone a very long way in this tournament. I think many teams look to be suffering the effects of a hard long European season - majority of the African players included.

  • Comment number 15.

    I thought that last night's match was the best of the tournament so far - although USA v Slovenia was pretty good.

    What puts Saturday's game on top for me is that in the final stages I really did not know what was going to happen, whereas the US were always the team likely to snatch a winner in their game.

    After every match quite a few journalists are allowed in what is called a mixed zone. They stand on one side of a barrier and the players walk from their dressing room to their coach on the other side. You can ask them to stop for a chat but it is up to them.

    Last night a colleague from 5 Live and I were almost crushed by a media scrum desperate to speak with Samuel Eto'o. It was actually quite scary - and is the first time that I have seen one of the flimsy boards that separates player from media crushed.

    Imagine the headlines if Eto'o had sustained a serious injury.

  • Comment number 16.

    I absolutely cannot believe that no one in the Denmark camp were pushing for that crucial 3rd goal.

    With 2-1 they will have to beat Japan now, not as easy as it sounds. 3-1 and all they would have required was a draw. I like Denmark they play good football, and in the last 5 or so minutes I was furious when I saw how feeble Bendtner's attempt at holding the ball up was when he could and should have been looking to go forward. In reality a draw would have been pretty much the same as they would still have needed to beat Japan to finish above them.

    I hope Denmark don't regret that, and I really hope it wasn't an oversight from the management, because not getting that 3rd goal could really cost them.

  • Comment number 17.

    Once again, the African nations fail spectacualy at the World Cup. Sad, but unfortunately true. They are, I'm afraid, vastly overrated.

  • Comment number 18.

    #15 Paul wrote: a colleague from 5 Live and I were almost crushed by a media scrum desperate to speak with Samuel Eto'o


    I take it you didn't get to chat with him then? Can imagine his face as herd of elephants surged towards him ;) I understand your reasoning behind your comment re: any headlines if Eto'o was hurt...but it somewhat suggests it wouldn't really matter if any of you guys were injured? I'm always amazed at these media scrums, the players always say the same things to everybody anyway - don't understand the mad mass scramble? Why not agree to one guy doing it and sharing the info?

  • Comment number 19.

    Denmark were good, and made Cameroon look good with their mistakes.

    They hardly surrendered the lead, when Denmark assumed control.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's so sad that African teams are not doing so well in this tournament. Cameroon played a brilliant game yesternight, but the problem like Paul said was that they were too offensive - going all out and not defending so well. Assou-Ekotto was (unfortunately) guilty of this offence by going out too much and forgetting he's also a defender.

    In addition to that, football is a game of chance, if you dont take them, you get punished by a team that does. The Lions of Cameroon clearly had more chances than the Danish team but got punished for not converting them.

    This is not a good time for Africa, but I hope the remaining ones take their chances and give Africa hope.

  • Comment number 21.

    Looking at the bigger picture, Cameroon failure in this tournament was predominantly due to the loss to Japan in the first game, and the coach is mainly to blame especially for the choice of the team.
    The dismal performance of African teams brings into light Africa's biggest football problem- the lack of good local coaches. Until CAF or the states (which i seriously doubt) invest in Coach training programmes for Africa we can forget the world cup.. Numbers do not lie and that no one country has won it with a foreign coach speaks for itself.
    The foreign coaches are always appointed so close to the tournament, have little time to appreciate the skills and talents of the players and often come up with tactics that do not suit the players.

  • Comment number 22.

    There is no reason to go into great detail about Cameroon's loss. They outplayed Denmark with some dazzling football, but like all African teams before them, were unable to score the goals that their play should have produced. Goalscoring, or lack of it, is the only obstacle between the best African sides and resounding success. Did you not see the chances that Webo alone wasted?
    Many of us still recall the last under-17 World Championship, where Nigeria should have won by a cricket score, and managed to lose. Can't someone teach these players to maintain their composure and get the goals they should?
    I personally am disappointed to see the most attractive side I have watched, disappear from what has so far been a less than entertaining tournament. As for Le Guen, what his players are doing is fine, leaving aside the taking of chances, and he has to resolve that, something which no trainer of African sides has so far managed to achieve.
    As for Denmark, I am unable to get excited about the prospect of seeing them perform once again.

  • Comment number 23.

    Still cannot understand how LeGuen could manage to transform such a promising lot of youngsters into such a "loosing" team. But beyong Leguen, i think the bunch lacked what we in Cameroon refer to as "The Fighting Lion Spirit"

  • Comment number 24.

    I can't understand why people are criticising Le Guen after last. Yes, vs Japan they were very poor, but last night they at times played the best attacking football seen this tournament from ANY side (bar maybe Germany), Webo (who according to the article was excellent wghen he was anything but)( should have had at the VERY minimum 4 goals, never have I seen one player muss so many GOLDEN chances. And Le Guen HAS to get the credit for the way they played and deserved to win, if he gets the blame for the way they lost to Japan. Anything else is being hypocritical

  • Comment number 25.

    The African nations have failed to deliver on a stage that was set up for them to shine, Ghana have limped to a win and a draw, and could qualify with a draw against the Germans. Nigeria just need a win against Japan and they will be through too, as I believe Argentina will thrash Greece! The others have little chance of making it through, from a tournament that promised so much to be a showcase of African football, it looks like they have taken a few steps backwards!

  • Comment number 26.

    Eto-o loves himself, eh?

    But that pass, eh...

  • Comment number 27.

    It's a shame for Cameroon but play two and lose two, you're on the first flight home. England on the other hand are hanging on for dear life but should still qualify, wether they deserve to is a different story but on a positive note they've only conceded one sloppy goal unfortunately they look less like scoring than John Terry at a WAGS booze up.

  • Comment number 28.

    Dennis? Are you there Dennis? Hellooo?

  • Comment number 29.

    they look less like scoring than John Terry at a WAGS booze up.


    Actually that doesn't really make any sense, ignore.

  • Comment number 30.

    Whilst I hope to be proved wrong, there is a serious risk that not a single African side will reach the last 16 in this World Cup, and if they do it will be very much by limping over the line rather than a well deserved progression (I believe Nigeria progressing is most likely). As other posters have mentioned, the lack of composure in front of goal is the biggest problem affecting African sides. I cannot believe the amount of chances wasted by some of the leading attacking players in each team. Is such an inability to finish a feature of African club football, of which I have little knowledge, or rather something which comes in due to the pressure of playing for the national side? Whilst most of the players are earning a living in Europe, the roots must lie in Africa.

    In reference to Cameroon, they were eliminated due to the dire performance against Japan more than the defeat to Denmark, which was unfortunate but more in keeping with the general trend of poor African finishing. It was clear before this World Cup that there were serious rifts in the Cameroon camp typified by the ridiculous exchange of words between Eto'o and Milla (was Eto'o shouting 'Roger, Roger, Roger' on scoring his goal on Saturday?). A team looking to head in a single direction and united is a good basis for success, not a power struggle between two national heroes.

    On watching Ivory Coast last night, I found the problem to be slightly different. I was staggered by the lack of ambition at times, particularly at 3-0 down. Whilst Drogba may have got one back, he was the only player making a late runs into the box to support Gervinho's mazey runs, which added something different, but I suppose if you are looking for a change of tactics half way through the second half, Sven isn't your man. Again, if Ivory Coast progress, it will be on the back of poor Portuguese performances rather than anything overly impressive that they have done.

    FIFA will have to take a serious look at the 6 places awarded to African sides after this World Cup should positive results fail to materialise in the last few games and consider whether 6 places are seriously warranted, particularly with a strong South American showing. Would be interesting to hear your views on that Paul.

  • Comment number 31.

    On paper African teams have looked strong. They have brilliant footballers who keep on performing season after season in the big leagues abroad. Time has come for these teams to have their own well trained African coaches who understand the players, their mentality and their cultures. These coaches or football managers need to be with their chosen team for a much longer period than has been the case in recent times. Much was expected from the six African qualifiers but they seem to be keeping their best for the next world cup.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 32.

    Thank you South Africa , thank you Mandela , thank you the people of South Africa , thank you president Jacob Zuma for bringing PRIDE to all of Africa. When I was growing up , I never thought or even dreamed of any African country hosting the World Cup , but I was wrong then. My reason , colonialism , racism , and you name the rest. you sufficiently and in a unique way represented the African continent with all your might and enormous resources.
    you are the pride of Africa !! Larry Putu/USA

  • Comment number 33.

    GEORGE WEAH , I admired you. you did not go to the world cup , you have never played in the world cup , but won all the accolades of a professional player. you are still the greatest player in my mind.


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