Cameroon seek millennium repeat
© AFP

Cameroon first came into the world's footballing spotlight after holding Italy to a draw at the FIFA World Cup™ finals in Spain in 1982. Eight years later their fabled 1-0 win over holders Argentina in Milan set the Indomitable Lions on a mazy run to the quarter-finals of the tournament.

However, it is only at Olympic level that the central African country has won a major international title, taking the gold in a dramatic penalty shoot-out over Spain in Sydney in the year 2000. Now they are seeking to repeat the heroics of Australia when they return to the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Beijing 2008.

African hopes are always high for the U-23 event and this year is no different with Cameroon one of the leading candidates. The final squad is due to be named this weekend as coach Martin Ntoungou Mpile settles on the 18 players who will compete in China with speculation continuing over the participation of the country's footballing icon, the three-time CAF Footballer of the Year, Samuel Eto'o. He was a winner eight years ago but there have been no over-age players at the pre-Olympics training camp in Germany where Cameroon have been working on their preparations, tucked away quietly at Ostfildern in Baden- Wurttemberg.

Pfister on hand
It has not been the smoothest of build-ups for Cameroon with many key players missing due to club commitments. The likes of Stephane Mbia, Landry Nguemo and Alexandre Song, who have been regulars in the senior side and bring considerable experience at U-23 level, have been belated arrivals to the group. However, their absence has been tempered by the presence of senior national team coach Otto Pfister, who has been on-hand to offer his opinions.

Cameroon will head from southern Germany to Hong Kong to participate in a warm-up tournament, along with Côte d'Ivoire, the Netherlands and the USA, before they begin their participation in the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. The current Olympic team perhaps lacks the charisma of the 2000 version but proved a workman-like outfit in their qualifying group, where they overcame the likes of Guinea and Morocco.

Mbia, from French club Stade Rennes, and Song, who is based in England with Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, were both pivotal for the Indomitable Lions team which reached the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ghana in February. Again, they will be key to the side along with defender Andre Bikey and Turkey-based winger Gustave Mbangue, who recently made his senior debut in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.