The first of the African heavyweights to be looked at in this blog, Cameroon arrive, once again on the back of heavy expectations and reputations. 4 times winners of the Africa Cup of Nations and a regular qualifier for the World Cup, Cameroon represent one of Africa’s big names and will surely be one of the more favoured teams to take the title and a 5th championship. Though, the West Africans will need to be on top form to even get out of their group, arguably a second Group of Death where they will face off against Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea.
After the humiliation of not qualifying for either the 2012 and 2013 AFCoN’s there has been a turnaround in fortunes for Cameroon. Even though the non qualification was followed by making the Brazil World Cup last year, it was once again an early exit and fairly dismal display overall, leaving winless as per South Africa in 2010, with only one goal to their name. So the qualification process for Equatorial Guinea has been seen as a new dawn for Cameroon, steadily winning back national pride and winning over previously disenchanted fans. Under coach Volker Finke, domestically in Africa, the Lions have proved, literally, unbeatable. In a group consisting of Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and DR Congo, they won 4 games, drawing 2, destroying the Ivorians 4-1 in September last year before a packed Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde. Perhaps even more impressive was Cameroon’s Goals Against ledger, the single Ivorian goal scored by Yaya Toure. The cornerstone of that tight defence came in the form of club team enemies for Ligue Un. Nicolas N’Koulou of Maresilles and Henri Bedimo of Lyon will once again shore up the Cameroon defence in Equatorial Guinea and with 93 caps between them, their vast experience at international and domestic level will stand them in good stead.
Elsewhere on the pitch, captain Stephane Mbia of Sevilla will captain Les Lions at AFCoN 2015, with attacking options coming in the way of Schalke’s pacy Eric Choupo-Moting and Porto’s Vincent Aboubakar. The question over Alex Song’s inclusion in the squad has finally been put to rest with the midfielder now retiring from international football after possibilities arose regarding his playing in the tournament. Song had even flown to Cameroon to discuss the possibilities of appearing in Equatorial Guinea, with manager Finke, but alas it seems Song’s 48th and final appearance for his country would be the horror show in the Arena Da Amazonia, Manaus where he was red carded in a 4-0 hammering by Croatia.
In spite of the tough grouping with Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea in Group D, I still see The Lions progressing. qualification saw them take four points from 2 meeting with the Ivorians which could prove to be an important psychological factor coming into this tournament. After the poor showing in Brazil last year it’s important for The Lions to start well on the 20th of January against Mali in the Nuevi Estadio de Malabo. I do see them being able to cope with Mali and Guinea, possibly securing 6 points, enough to see them through to the Quarter-Finals regardless of the outcome of the final group game against the Ivorian Elephants on January the 28th. Into the knockout phases, I see Cameroon victorious in a Quarter-Final match up with a Group C Counterpart. From there unfortunately I do not see The Indomitables reaching the final, but overall what can hopefully be seen as a successful campaign built on a strong and experienced back four.