Cameroon have been absent from just one FIFA World Cup™ since Italy 1990, with a disappointing draw at home to Egypt depriving them of a place at Germany 2006. Having won away to Côte d’Ivoire, Samuel Eto’o and his team-mates looked poised to progress to the world finals only for Pierre Wome to miss a fateful late penalty. A Côte d’Ivoire side led by Didier Drogba advanced to Germany at Cameroon’s expense.
The Indomitable Lions recovered from that setback by qualifying for South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, sealing a place at the second of those finals with a 4-1 defeat of Tunisia in Yaounde. As fate would have it, the Cameroonians have been drawn against another North African side in the third and final round of the qualifiers for Russia 2018, namely Algeria, a side regarded by many to be the best on the continent right now.
The two sides met in the opening round of matches in Group B, with the Algerians taking an early lead before Hugo Broos’s hard-working side hit back to secure a precious point. *FIFA.com *spoke to one of Cameroon’s outstanding performers in that game, Arnaud Sutchuin, who had a big hand in blunting the threat posed by Riyad Mahrez and the rest of the Algerian attack.
“We came away with a draw in Algeria because the players stuck together on the pitch,” said the midfielder. “We played as a team, like we usually do, and we also made the most of our individual talent when we had to. That’s why we’ve made a good start to the qualifiers.”
Looking ahead to Cameroon’s next assignment, a home game with Zambia, Sutchuin said: “It’s a tough match because we’ll be at home, in front of our fans. We’re determined to take the three points, though, and stay on course by backing up the result we got in Algeria.”
Qualification is going to go right down to the wire.
Though Zambia began their campaign with a 2-1 defeat at home to Nigeria, they have shown an ability in the past to bounce back quickly, as Sutchuin, who plays for Scottish club Hearts, acknowledged: “Zambia may have had some bad results, but it would be an error to underestimate them. They’ve got a lot of potential. We’ll have to be focused and on top of our game to get the three points.”
A challenging section
As far as Cameroon, Nigeria and Zambia are concerned, Algeria are still very much the team to beat in Group B, even after dropping two points in their opening match. Echoing that view, Sutchuin had this to say about the Desert Foxes: “Algeria remain the favourites to win the section because they have a strong side made up of players who play in the top leagues.”
He also sees the section as the tightest of the five: “Qualification is going to go right down to the wire. Every point is going to be vital because all the teams in the group have the potential to go through.” Discussing his dream of playing in the World Cup for the first time, the 27-year-old midfielder added: “It’s a great competition that’s followed right around the world and every player wants to play in it.”
Turning his attention to the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, where the Indomitable Lions have been drawn against the hosts, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau, Sutchuin said: “It’s a tight group with some good sides in it. We need to show respect for all of them and I think we can come out on top.”
Setting out Cameroon’s objectives over the next two years, he added: “We’ll be taking each match as it comes in Gabon and trying to go as far as we can. Cameroon are a great team. We’ll be doing our best to excel at the Cup of Nations and to qualify for the World Cup, which would be fantastic.”