Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said Sunday he is eyeing the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals as he bids to match the famous achievements of the Indomitable Lions 20 years ago. Cameroon, who face Japan in Bloemfontein on Monday, became the first African nation to reach the last eight at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, inspired by a 38-year-old Roger Milla, before eventually falling to England.
"My ambition is to go as far as possible and perhaps equal the glorious 1990 tournament which everybody talks about. We definitely want to be up to that level," Le Guen told reporters at the Free State Stadium. "There is a huge expectation in Cameroon and they want a lot from us and we have certainly done everything to make sure that our preparation is well under way and I think we're now ready to showcase all our talents."
The former Lyon, Rangers and PSG coach admitted the Netherlands were favourites to win Group E, which also includes Denmark, but said Cameroon could finish second and "why not first?"
Cameroon hope star striker Samuel Eto'o can inspire the nation in the same way as Milla did two decades ago. The Inter Milan player, who rivals Côte d’Ivoire's Didier Drogba as the best striker from Africa, has enjoyed a stellar two seasons, winning the treble of UEFA Champsion League plus domestic league and cup titles for Inter a year after managing the feat for Barcelona.
My ambition is to go as far as possible and perhaps equal the glorious 1990 tournament.
But the French coach cautioned against focusing too much on one player. "Eto'o is our captain. He's an essential player, the icon of Cameroon football. But don't forget there's also Geremi and Rigobert Song," he said, referring to the veteran players.
The coach said the atmosphere in the camp was good, adding: "We are in pre-competition. The players are calm but they are conscious of their responsibilities."
No African team boasts more experience than Cameroon, whose appearance in South Africa is a record sixth at a FIFA World Cup for an African nation and who will revel in "home" support. They have struggled in their warm-up matches but will face a Japan side in a trough after a string of poor performances in which they have netted only once in five games.