Beyokol: Here to win the cup
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Asked who he ffeels are the strongest African team at the tournament, Francois Beyokol, goalkeeper and captain of the Cameroon U-20 team, replies without hesitation: "Us, of course!" Utterly convinced of his team's ability, Beyokol gives his take on why competition across the continent is so fierce: "In Africa there are some very strong teams, and that's because the tough circumstances here force us to work so hard," he tells

Beyokol played a significant role in the Young Lions' excellent start to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, a 2-0 defeat of Korea Republic. "Knowing you have a decent keeper gives a team more confidence and optimism, as outfield players know that, even if they do make a mistake, there's someone there to clean up," said the Canon Yaounde custodian, who strikes a calm, reassured figure on and off the pitch.

As well as trying to keep clean sheets, as captain he assumes other responsibilities. "I get the players in the right positions, as I have a far better view of the pitch from where I am." It is a role that requires a good understanding of the game, something Beyokol clearly has. "I wasn't actually a keeper at the beginning of my career," he explains, "but everyone in my family seems to play in goal. We've even produced one of the most famous keepers in Cameroon, and he has very much become my role model. We decided together that I should follow the tradition, and he keeps giving me tips so that I continue to improve."

I don't intend to go into coaching once my playing days are over, but rather carpentry. I started my training so, once my career's over, I intend to get my diploma.
Francois Beyekol on his future plans

"Being the last line of defence is no easy job though," Beyokol continues. "You can have a great game but as soon as you make a mistake, everyone forgets how good you've been up until then."

The youngster has no regrets about pulling on the gloves, though, since it has brought him closer to fulfilling his dream of a move abroad. "I would love to play in Spain for Valencia," he explains. "I've already had a few trials there, but I was injured and I couldn't give it my best shot. If I get the chance again, then I'll give it my all." Until then, it will be "work, work, work" - the only way, he says, to become a truly excellent goalkeeper.

Beyokol won a host of admirers in Cameroon's opener against the Taeguk Warriors, and he is hoping for plenty more of the same. "We're here to win the World Cup," he says categorically, before explaining that the group stages are the first priority. "We need to advance to the knock-out phase first of all, but once we do that, anything is possible."

The keeper has clearly been impressed by team coach Alain Wabo, saying: "Since he took over the national team he's been the most charismatic coach I've ever had. He really trusts his players, and when he says something, everyone listens and obeys." 

Though just 20 and embarking on what should be a promising career, Beyokol already has plans for life after professional football: "I don't intend to go into coaching once my playing days are over, but rather carpentry. I started my training so, once my career's over, I intend to get my diploma."

Before he can master that craft, however, he wants to "stop as many balls as possible. If I could save every penalty, that would be great."