Cameroon are headed to a sixth FIFA U-20 World Cup finals appearance in Colombia in July with high hopes of finally making a real impact. It is 30 years since their debut in Australia in 1981, but it was not until the 1995 tournament in Qatar that Cameroon managed to top their opening round group. In that instance, they lost to Argentina in the quarter-finals, while four years later, in Nigeria, they also managed to advance from the group stage and were involved in a nine-goal thriller with Mali, before losing in the Round of 16 after extra time. This is a second successive appearance for Cameroon, but in Egypt two years ago they only won a single game over Korea Republic, while losing heavily to USA and Germany.
Cameron finished the recent African Youth Championships in South Africa as runners-up, beating Nigeria in group play but then losing to their perennial rivals in the deciding match. But it did go to extra time and came after a furious fightback from the Junior Lions, who were two goals down in the second half but forced the game to an additional 30 minutes. Cameroon won their opening round group to clinch their place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup with consummate ease. But they failed to kick on in the knockout phase and can consider themselves quite fortunate to even reach the final in South Africa, following a controversial penalty shoot-out win in the semi-finals over Egypt.
Cameroon will hope the big physical presence of their players will be enough to outmuscle opponents Portugal, New Zealand and Uruguay at Colombia 2011. Coach Martin Mpile Ndtoungou has an experienced track record and a potential spine of quality players to build his team on. The best at the recent African Youth Championship was the imposing goalkeeper and captain Jean Efala, whose heroics came close to helping him to the player of the tournament award. “We were disappointed to lose but we also left the tournament with our heads held high and now we set off to immediately start preparing,” the skipper said after their final defeat by Nigeria.