Overcome by disappointment after their 1-0 opening defeat against Group E rivals Japan, Cameroon were still shaking their collective heads days after their feeble start to the first edition of the FIFA World Cup™ finals to be held on African soil.
With the pressure now firmly on the four-time African champions, will the criticism that has rained down on the squad give them the wake-up call required ahead of their 19 June meeting with Denmark in Pretoria? Real Betis wide midfielder Achille Emana certainly thinks so. “We didn’t play well against Japan and I left the field with the feeling that we could’ve given a better account of ourselves,” he said.
“We’re now under the obligation to show a better side in our next match. We don’t want to exit this competition in the group phase,” he added in an exclusive interview with FIFA, before outlining the high expectations heaped upon the Indomitable Lions’ shoulders. “The people of Cameroon expect a lot from us. At the moment they all want a win, a surprise, because they know we’ve got a good team. If they didn’t believe in us they wouldn’t bother to criticise.”
Aside from the lack of creativity going forward and a paucity of tactical discipline shown against Japan, there has been speculation that the Cameroon camp is divided into two antagonistic cliques, one of which is led by captain Samuel Eto’o. “The press have decided to try and play me off against Eto’o,” said Emana, allegedly in the non-Eto’o group. “But I haven’t got a problem with him and he’s not got one with me either. On the contrary, I like to work alongside people who have an opinion and bring positive ideas to the table.”
Time for a change
Coach Paul Le Guen is another of those determined to bring about an improved showing from his charges, though rather than play the blame game the French strategist felt a sympathetic approach would yield better results. “I spoke to every player in the squad individually. We need to show unity at times like these,” he said.
“I don’t know if the team had stage fright or what (against Japan), but we played well below our usual standard,” continued the former Rangers and Lyon boss, who had raised eyebrows by deploying Eto’o in a right-sided role. “Eto’o played there for the whole season (with Inter Milan), with one or two attackers ahead of him. We could perhaps change things and put him back as a central striker, but that’s by no means a given.”
Le Guen may also decide to draft in Arsenal holding midfielder Alexandre Song, left on the bench throughout the Japan game. Meanwhile another English-based player, Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Sebastien Bassong, believes the squad must first solve their internal problems before taking on the Danish Dynamite. “Me and nearly everyone else in the group believe that we need to focus on ourselves and work on improving the things that went wrong. Of course we’re training hard and thinking about the best way to play against the Danes but I think, at this moment in time, we’re perhaps our own worst enemies.”