Bassogog: We are young, but strong
Cameroon’s Russia 2018 hopes in the balance ahead of a matches against Nigeria
Young in-form forward Christian Bassogog shoulders the goalscoring tasks
The 21-year-old was named best player at this year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations
Christian Bassogog may not be quite the youngest of the current Cameroon team - the 21-year-old Henan Jianye attacker is a few months older than team-mates Fabrice Ondoa and Andre Onana. He is though, however, arguably the fastest player in the entire Indomitable Lions squad.
The fleet-footed predator scored a memorable goal in this year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Ghana when he capitalised on his exceptional pace to surge past defenders and clip the ball past the keeper to seal a 2-0 victory. It is a feat that has repeatedly been seen this season in the Chinese Super League where Bassogog has racked up seven goals and three assists in his debut campaign.
"I am not sure just how fast I am," the former Wilmington Hammerheads winger told FIFA.com. "I have never tested my speed by running a 100-metre sprint. But I know my pace is my top strength."
Bassogog was a standout player throughout this year's continental tournament, helping his country to their fifth African title and earning the tournament’s top individual award. Despite the impressive accolade, Bassogog admits the tournament was something of a learning process.
"It was a great experience for me," he said. "It was my first major competition with the national team. In the first game against Burkina Faso, I tried to play well but I missed a glorious chance. I was glad to open my account against Ghana and help my team to the final. And we won it."
Do-or-die against Super Eagles The African continental campaign and subsequent FIFA Confederations Cup appearance is in the past for Bassogog and Co. Now Cameroon are facing make-or-break scenarios in their qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. With two draws from the opening two fixtures, they trail leaders Nigeria by four points. With only the group winners advancing to Russia 2018, the Indomitable Lions must win double-headers against the Super Eagles early next month if they are to reignite their hopes.
Cameroon in Group B Algeria 1-1 Cameroon (9 October) Cameroon 1-1 Zambia (12 November) Nigeria v Cameroon (1 September) Cameroon v Nigeria (4 September) Cameroon v Algeria (7 October) Zambia v Cameroon (6 November)
With so much at stake, much will be expected of the in-form Bassogog. His lightning pace is, of course, something which Cameroon can count on to unlock Nigeria's solid defence. Bassogog, though, downplays his individual impact, preferring to emphasise the team’s unified spirit.
"Nigeria are a strong team,” he said. “They have very good players and many of them are playing in Europe. But we must defeat them if we are to maintain our qualifying hopes. We should take the game to them. We need to fight to defeat them.
"Our players are young, but we are strong as a team," he said of Cameroon’s progress under Belgian coach Hugo Broos. "He is a good coach. He knows what the players are good at so he can get the best out of us. In this team, everyone has his chance."
Having said that, Bassogog is all too aware what responsibility he shoulders.
“These are matches I want to win," he said. "We are not in an ideal position but these are qualifying games for the World Cup. I will do my utmost to help our team.
“When I was young, I liked watching Eto'o. I watched carefully how he went forward and how he scored. He could always score some unexpected goals in amazing fashions. For a long time, I had thought of becoming a player like him.”