Expectations were high among Indomitable Lions fans when Cameroon set off for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, and not without good reason. The team, made up of players from Europe’s biggest leagues, had had a relatively straightforward passage through the qualifiers and Paul Le Guen’s hard work as coach seemed to be paying off.
A poor performance in their Group E opener against Japan dampened those expectations, however, and with little time to turn things around, Cameroon’s posse of star players failed to gel and match the heights attained by their illustrious predecessors some 20 years earlier at Italy 1990. The first team to be eliminated from the world finals following defeat in their second game by Denmark, the Indomitable Lions now have nothing but pride left to play for when they take on the Netherlands on Thursday.
“We’ve got one last game and we need to give a good account of ourselves. The whole nation is with us,” midfielder Alexandre Song told FIFA, expressing the determination of both the playing and coaching staff to give the fans back home something to cheer about.
“We can’t put a smile back on people’s faces because we’re already out,” continued the Arsenal man. “The least we can do, though, is to sweat for the jersey and try to save some face.” Admirable sentiments that were echoed by Jean II Makoun. “It would be great to get a good result and end this campaign with our heads held high and at least put some of our mistakes behind us,” he said.
Coach Le Guen has taken his side’s elimination as badly as his side, and now faces the thankless task of lifting their morale after costly consecutive defeats, the second of them coming despite some markedly improved football from his charges. “The team was very down afterwards,” he told FIFA. “It was frustrating because everyone tried their hardest. We played as a team and created chances but at end of it all we fell short of our objectives.”
Drawing on his professional pride, the Frenchman urged his players to make their parting shot a successful one: “We have to fight to the end because we are professionals. We’ve done our training and now we’re gunning for the Netherlands. This isn’t a friendly. It’s a World Cup match and we need to show some respect for the Cameroonian people and for ourselves.”
A victory over the Dutch would also help salve the internal wounds that have afflicted the team and undermined unity in the camp. And in the opinion of Makoun, it would also provide a boost for the next generation of Indomitable Lions. “There were a few external factors that affected us,” said the Lyon midfielder. “We tried to put things right but the damage was already done. What really amazes me, though, is that we had such a good team and still came up short. A good result now would be great, though. It would help us improve our record here and give us something to draw on for the future.”
After a disappointing sojourn in South Africa, the future is all that counts now for the wounded Lions.