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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread #2 For 6/3/14: #26 Cameroon

                                                                    Photo from FIFA FW

Projected Lineup: 

                             Itandje 
   
Djeugoue-  N'Koulou - Matip - Bedimo (Assou Ekotto) 

                    Mbia    -    Enoh (Makoun)   

                              Song 

             Aboubakar    -     Choupo-Moting 

                               Eto'o           

Bench: Wabo, Assou Ekotto, Makoun

The Runthrough: 

Listless four summers ago, Cameroon sealed their return to the global stage with a fine 4-1 second leg victory over Tunisia last fall to advance out of the do or die CAF playoffs. German manager Volker Finke has done reasonably well so far in his first foray into international coaching. But a comprehensive 5-1 thrashing to Portugal in the March friendlies displayed how limited his Cameroon side was, and how they have been rightly pegged to finish last in Group A with hosts Brazil, solid Croatia, and unpredictable Mexico placed above. 

Despite the impressive 22-year Joel Matip, there are questions surrounding Cameroon's other three defensive spots. The usually Nicolas N'Koulou did not have as good of a season with Marseille as his previous one. Henri Bedimo, despite being an assist machine with Lyon this year, can sometimes forget the first responsibilities of a leftback in preventing goals. Bedimo is, however, the preferred option at leftback than the fully in decline Benoit Assou-Ekotto, always capable of not being in the right places in defense when required. Young Cedric Djeugoue will likely have the massive responsibilities at rightback come the first game on June 13 against Mexico, although he is talented enough to earn himself a trip away from his domestic club Coton Sport. 

The midfield is the strength of the team with all of its members, outside of 21-year-old Edgar Salli , returning from the last World Cup cycle. Alex Song is only 26 despite seemingly being around forever and will look to provide that energetic steel in holding midfield that was soundly criticized in Barcelona's trophyless season. In contrast, Stephane Mbia had a terrific campaign for Europa League winners Sevilla, showing why QPR would do well to bring him back on loan for next season. Both Song and Mbia have played much more of late than Jean Makoun and Eyong Enoh, as disappointing spells in the Premier League have side tracked their careers. 

Fortunately for Flnke, he can instead play three in the midfield and three up front thanks to the superb club seasons for Maxim Choupo-Moting and Vincent Aboubakar. A top talent for so many years in the Hamburg ranks, the German born 24-year-old forward has finally displayed consistency with his abilities for Mainz in their 2013-2014 fine year. He has carried his 10-goal Bundesliga form into the buildup friendlies for Cameroon, scoring a nice goal against familiar German opposition on Sunday to validate his current high level. Almost in the same confident groove is Aboubakar, whose breakout 16 goal display with Lorient saw him finished tied for second in the Ligue 1 scoring table, as everyone was of course well behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 26 goal tally. 

And then there's Eto'o, who despite not having his famous pace for several years now, still can finish well if provided chances. Just in case he picks up any injury, the equally experienced Pierre Webo is a fine backup and would partner with his long time international teammate if it weren't for Aboubakar's breakthrough year. 

The now free agent Eto'o vowed that Cameroon would fear no one in Group A, not even the hosts Brazil. And it is with that spirit that makes The Indomitable Lions deserving of their moniker.  And why, even with Mexico and Croatia chosen by most as the projected second place finishers, they have some evidence to backup their belief of getting beyond the group stage.

Under The Radar, Key Player: 

Against a string of talented forwards and attacking options, Joel Matip will have to show the solid play he displayed for most of the club season with Schalke in order for Cameroon to have a shot at getting beyond the group stage.  
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