No team from their continent has ever gone further in the World Cup finals than the Indomitable Lions
A quarter-final exit at the African Nations Cup in Angola at the start of the year was a major blow for an ambitious Cameroon squad, but it brought home once again the frailties of a side who often perform above their potential. However, it has done little to temper the high sense of expectation ahead of the World Cup finals that are now almost a right for the fervent followers of the most successful African side in the tournament’s history.
The Indomitable Lions are making a record sixth trip to the finals and their quarter-final place in 1990 – they were beaten by England in extra time – is the furthest any African team has progressed.
Reliance on the goalscoring acumen of Samuel Eto’o is as pronounced as ever and, as he heads rapidly towards 100 caps and 50 international goals, it is a dependence that is wholly justified.
This is a Cameroon side that is in the process of undergoing a change, with mainstays such as Rigobert Song and Geremi on the way out and other notables such as Stephane Mbia and Jean Makoun finding it hard to bed down a regular place in the starting line-up.
Cameroon continue to keep up a remarkable production line of top talent, except in the striking department. Coach Paul Le Guen is, though, the first in a recent long list of expatriate coaches who have been searching for new players in the domestic league and not just exclusively among Cameroonians based with clubs in Europe. After a seamless start to his stint in charge, in which Cameroon turned around a precarious position in the World Cup qualifiers to grab their ticket to South Africa with ease, Le Guen was given a wake-up call at the Nations Cup in January where competition was stiffer.
They just squeezed into the quarter-finals and were then thoroughly outplayed by Egypt, raising questions about the depth of the Lions squad and their realistic hopes in a World Cup group that will provide taxing opposition.
Cameroon, though, are used to deceptive performances that precede a sudden burst of success – and with their pedigree they have a strong hope of getting past the first stage.
The view from Cameroon
“Cameroon have to beware of individual errors which have led to their downfall before, particularly at the Nations Cup in Angola. But I think they will have a great World Cup, it could be an extraordinary year for the country.”
Claude Le Roy, former Cameroon coach
“It is a big year for Africa. Who would have imagined 25 years ago this continent would be hosting the World Cup? Cameroon won’t be among the favourites but I would say they have a chance to create a lot of upsets. African sides will be playing at home and this will be a big advantage for them.”
Roger Milla, legend of three World Cups