Though only 24, Stephane Mbia Etoundi has already become a cornerstone of the Cameroon defence and one of the most influential figures in the side. Never anything less than fully committed, the commanding central defender rarely comes off second-best in a duel and is much admired by his coaches for his determination and fighting spirit.
Starting out with both Rennes and the Indomitable Lions as a holding midfielder, Mbia is now putting his impressive physique to great use at the heart of the Marseille defence, with Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen sometimes deploying him at right-back. That adaptability is one of the reasons why he is so highly regarded, even if the man himself prefers to occupy a midfield role.
That high regard was illustrated in 2008 when Mbia was voted the second best young African player in 2008 behind Ivorian striker Salomon Kalou. A finalist in the CAF African Cup of Nations in Ghana that February, he then helped Cameroon reach the quarter-finals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 before going on to enjoy his finest season to date with Rennes in France.
Marseille then came in for him, beating off stiff opposition from a clutch of English clubs. Their persistence has been rewarded by a string of authoritative displays by the Cameroonian powerhouse, who is in the form of his life as he prepares for South Africa 2010.