Marc-Vivien Foé will be in everyone’s thoughts at the Final of the FIFA Confederations Cup. The name of the departed Cameroon midfielder, who died on Thursday, will be written on the shirts of his team-mates. They and the French team, who crossed paths with Foé at either club or country level, will want to honour him by putting on a great Final. The opposition in styles between the best defence of the competition (Cameroon) and the best attack (France) points to a match full of promise. And history is set to be made as no side has ever won the trophy twice, and no African team has yet won the competition.
Getting back to playing football will not be easy. Yet this is the Final of the FIFA Confederations Cup and the Indomitable Lions and the Bleus will do their utmost to lift the trophy, despite the sadness of the occasion.
The two sides have diametrically opposed reasons to believe they can win. France have the best attack in the competition, with 11 goals to their name and two of the six top scorers (Thierry Henry and Robert Pirès, three goals). Their scoring prowess does not stop with Henry and Pirès though; Sylvain Wiltord, Sidney Govou, Ludovic Giuly, Djibril Cissé and Olivier Kapo have all found the back of the net so far, and that must be Bleus coach Jacques Santini’s greatest source of satisfaction so far.
Cameroon, on the other hand, have only scored three goals in four matches. That lack of attacking venom has been compensated by a remarkable defensive record: the Indomitable Lions have not conceded a goal in the whole tournament, a statistic that speaks volumes about the performances of Winnie Schaefer’s back line. The blend of youth (Thimotée Atouba and Jean-Joël Perrier-Doumbé) and experience (Rigobert Song and Geremi) has worked wonderfully. “Stand-ins” like Bill Tchato, Lucien Mettomo and Pierre Njanka have also done sterling work when called upon.
For many reasons, the two teams will be out to do well. Both began the competition with a strong desire to make up for a disappointing first round exit from last year’s FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. “The players have a chance to make amends at this prestigious event," said Winnie Schaefer prior to the competition. “Even if you do not feel it, the motivation is definitely there,” argued Jacques Santini. Now they have made it to the Final, neither side will want to miss out on this opportunity to restore their standing in the eyes of the world.
Whichever side emerges victorious is sure of making FIFA Confederations Cup history. Should France take the laurels, they would become the first side to lift the trophy twice, not to mention twice consecutively. Cameroon, should they get the upper hand, would be the first African side to win the competition. So despite the obvious feelings of loss and grief, there are many things to play for on Sunday evening.