Eto’o turmoil threatens to derail Cameroon’s World Cup bid
“Is it worth me going to the World Cup? I’ve still got some days to think about it but I’ll see if my taking part is important because I don’t need this in my career.”
Those are certainly not the words Cameroon fans wanted to hear from their star player only a week before the Indomitable Lions take part in their first World Cup in eight years, but Samuel Eto’o was clearly an angry man following comments from his former hero Roger Milla.
Milla had questioned how much the Inter Milan striker had ever brought to the national side in comparison to his club successes, prompting Eto’o to respond by labelling the Cameroon great as “bitter”.
And it didn’t take long for Eto’o’s anger to manifest itself on the pitch, as he was sent off for two petulant bookable offences in a 3-1 friendly loss to Portugal on Wednesday, suggesting that this row could rumble on into the tournament.
It’s certainly the last thing manager Paul Le Guen needs. When previewing the Cameroon side, we suggested that it was not an absence of talent but an ominous lack of big-match mentality that had so plagued this side in recent years, and incidents like this are precisely the type of scenarios that can derail a campaign before it has even began.
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. More recently they managed to lose to minnows Gabon in the African Cup of Nations before crashing out to Egypt in the quarter-finals, when they had been expected to mount a serious challenge.
And while it is unlikely that Eto’o will see through his threat, they’ll need their talisman on top form and in good spirits for them to go far, if not then the 8/11 on them to go out at the group stage may be worth a look.
One thing is for sure, don’t expect any goal celebrations to involve dancing round a corner flag.
How do you see Cameroon faring with a distracted Samuel Eto’o? See the full Stage of elimination market.