Cameroon arrived at the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 with confidence at a low ebb after some poor performances of late. But the Indomitable Lions’ first round displays have been exemplary and Winnie Schaefer’s charges now face Colombia in the semi-final at Gerland Stadium in Lyon on Thursday with self belief restored. Their desire to make amends for their lacklustre showing at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ has carried them this far, and they are now intent on going all the way to ensure full redemption.
Roger Milla on one of the most talked about goals in history
Before setting foot in France, Cameroon’s record this year was nothing to write home about: three loses, two wins and a draw; and those wins had come over Kuwait (6-2) and Madagascar (2-0) - gallant sides certainly - but both well below Cameroon’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Two wins (1:0, over Brazil and Turkey) and a draw (0 :0 against the USA) in the first round of the FIFA Confederations Cup have provided a welcome fillip. “We have suffered so many setbacks in the past, but the last week has seen us back at our best. We’re just happy to be playing well again,” says Achille Emana.
“Winning is our guide”
The Cameroonians are manifestly keen to prove that last summer’s showing in Asia was a one-off. “Nothing has really changed since the World Cup. Except maybe lady luck is on our side now,” affirms Samuel Etoo. Team-mate Marc-Vivien Foé agrees: “Things are going our way right now, we have to take advantage of that. I can tell you that we’re all 110% ready. Winning is our guide.”
Their greatest source of satisfaction stems from being the only team not to have conceded a single goal in the tournament so far. That defensive meanness is becoming something of a habit too; Cameroon did not concede a single goal in winning the 2002 African Cup of Nations. “It’s obviously very important to defend well. And if we can take our chances at the other end we’ll be in good shape,” says Foé.
ut there is the rub. Most of Cameroon’s recent difficulties have arisen in front of goal. The Indomitable Lions attack is the least prolific of the four semi-finalists (two goals). Against the USA, Joseph-Désiré Job created plenty of chances but was unable to take one. With regular starter – and scorer – Samuel Etoo out of the Colombia game due to Copa del Rey commitments with his club Real Mallorca, Winnie Schaefer will have to find another cutting edge from somewhere; either that or Job had better find his scoring boots.
Notwithstanding a lack of goalscoring prowess, the Africans’ self-confidence could still carry them all the way. “We’re a very ambitious side these days, determined to make up for our Asian mishap. We’ve already done so to a certain extent, but it would be a shame if we failed now just as things are coming together,” says Joël Epalle.
Nobody is underestimating the Cafeteros, however; “Colombia are a tough side but now we’ve come this far, we have to go all the way. We need to rest and make sure we’re 100% ready for them,” says captain Rigobert Song. “We’ll have our work cut out against Colombia, they’re a good side, but nothing is impossible,” says Etoo.
The Africans are completely focused then, knowing that redemption is guaranteed if they go on to lift the trophy. “We never take any game lightly,” says Epalle. “For the moment we are concentrating on beating Colombia. Then we’ll see. The most important thing is for us to have fun,” adds Etoo. Self-discipline and a splash of fun - sounds like the perfect recipe for success.