“It’s a huge disappointment because the people of Cameroon were counting on us.” These were the words of Indomitable Lions midfielder Alexandre Song, speaking to FIFA after their final Group E defeat against the Netherlands.
“We came here hopeful of getting things right and we had the ability. But we really messed up and now it’s going to difficult to look the supporters in the eye. Our country gave us everything and we couldn’t repay that faith.”
A harsh judgment indeed, though the Arsenal youngster’s words reflect the sense of deflation in the Cameroon camp after failing to secure a single point at the first FIFA World Cup™ finals to be held on African soil. Nor will the ire of millions of supporters be calmed by rumours of internal strife within the squad, squabbles that, if true, did little to promote a sense of unity and team spirit.
Coached by former Rangers, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain supremo Paul Le Guen, the four-time African champions started poorly with a timid display in the opening 1-0 defeat by Japan. And despite a much-improved performance in their second encounter with Denmark, wasteful finishing helped consign them to a 2-1 reverse and end their hopes of reaching the Round of 16.
“It’s true that there were a number of outside factors that affected the team’s performance. We tried to correct some of the mistakes but the damage had already been done. That didn’t do us any favours at all in our first game and weakened our team spirit,” said Lyon midfielder Jean II Makoun.
In full agreement was the experienced Mohamadou Idrissou, who told FIFA that “I got the impression we treated this tournament like a tourist trip. Going out of the competition is one thing, but the way we did it is quite another. We didn’t have the right attitude.”
“We shouldn’t have let our egos get in the way,” continued Song on same theme. “We needed to rally together as a team, which would have given us a real boost. But that’s exactly what we didn’t do. This situation raised its head a long time ago and I spoke to the coach about it. But I think my words were taken the wrong way: all I wanted was to make people aware of the problem so we could try and solve it. But look where we’ve ended up.”
Despite the body blow of failure at South Africa 2010, could this low point and any resulting changes revitalise Les Lions Indomptables ahead of the start of CAF African Cup of Nations qualifying in September?
“We’re going to have to quickly turn our focus on the qualifiers. We need to rediscover our unity and all pull together,” said coach Le Guen, whose position remains unclear. “My contract expires after the World Cup and so I can’t say anything about my future. Whatever happens, I wish Cameroon all the best.”
Another reason to be hopeful is an exciting crop of promising youngsters such as Nicolas Nkoulou, Gaetan Bong, Eric Choupo Moting, Joel Matip and Vincent Aboubakar, all of whom are between 18 and 22 years of age. And given these young livewires are already key squad members, the future looks bright for the west Africans.
“Among this new generation we’ve got players with huge potential and who are doing well for their clubs. They’ll keep progressing and establish themselves as first-choice players,” said Makoun, before concluding on a warning note.
“But before that can happen, I hope they all learn from this experience. I’m sure this will shape a lot of their careers. It would be nice if we could take something good from this and use it to help Cameroon in the future.”