Since unexpectedly providing much of the entertainment at Italia ’90, Cameroon have failed to live up to the resulting raised expectations.
Back then, Roger Milla’s goalscoring, coupled with his rhythmic hips, caused a stir as Cameroon reached the quarter-finals. They lost in extra-time to England, but the fact that this remains the Indomitable Lions’ most significant stamp on a World Cup only highlights recent failures.
They’ve won just one group game in their three World Cups since 1990, going out early on each occasion, and they didn’t even qualify for Germany four years ago.
Yet with the talent at their disposal, it remains a mystery why they haven’t made more of an impression. At one point Samuel Eto’o was the world’s most feared striker, Carlos Kameni has kept goal for Espanyol in La Liga for six seasons and Rigobert Song will be making his fourth appearance at a World Cup Finals.
Along with former Real Madrid and Chelsea man Geremi, South Africa will represent the last chance their generation has of earning a place alongside Milla in Cameroon’s football history.
But, thankfully for boss Paul Le Guen, their supporting cast will include some of the best young talent in European football. In defence, Spurs duo Benoit Assout-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong have played no small part in the success at White Hart Lane this season, while Stephane Mbia is a French league winner with Marseille, and much sought-after because of it.
Arsenal’s 22-year-old midfielder Alexandre Song will provide the cover for that defence, while Lyon’s Jean Makoun will be among those expected to provide the ammunition for an attack that still revolves around Eto’o. The Inter striker’s form has flourished under Jose Mourinho, but his withdrawn role has seen him notch just 12 league goals – his lowest return from a full season in eight years – so he’ll be keen to resume front man duties.
But while the talent in the squad cannot be questioned, it is their big-match mentality that has continually let them down in tournaments. Just recently in the African Cup of Nations, they were shocked by minnows Gabon in the group stages before losing to eventual winners Egypt in the quarter-finals. With Denmark looking more composed in pressure scenarios, Cameroon might have to hope for an unlikely Dutch collapse to end their group stage hoodoo.