Thursday, May 08, 2014

Meet the Teams: Cameroon

Nickname: Admit it, "The Indomitable Lions" is undeniably cool. For that alone, Cameroon has some major swagger coming into this (and any) World Cup.

Star: As he has been for the last decade, Cameroon's shiniest star is striker Samuel Eto'o. Having soared at the highest levels of competition in Europe, he deserves the title of most influential local star since the equally legendary Roger Milla.

Hip-Star: Sure Eto'o is the man up top, but who is going to get him the ball. The "fans" who "know things" about "football" will pretend that they know by talking about Alex Song. But the truly hip fan will trot out the name of Joël Matip instead (his German parentage and lengthy career at Schalke means he knows how to distribute in the classic German style, so if Eto'o's not scoring and Matip's not playing--you can harp on that causation all day long.)

Not where you want Eto'o
X-Factor: AMAZING ANALYSIS AHEAD: when preparing to play soccer it helps to play soccer. Sadly, Cameroon has players facing a dearth of playing time. If they can get themselves ready during the club season they can have an impact, if they're shaking loose cobwebs right before they face Mexico, things will be less promising.

Coach: Volker Finke is best known for spending 17 years at SC Freiburg. Interestingly Freiburg is no where near Cameroon. While he helped Cameroon solidify their development and hit their stride near the end of qualifying, it's not clear he can do it again on shorter notice.

History: Cameroon has some of the greatest highlights in African World Cup History. Roger Milla's corner flag dance. The first quarterfinal berth in African history. Of course those were both 24 years ago, before our Hip-Star Joël Matip was even born. 2010 was abysmal with a flurry of shots and a dearth of goals, aging again, this might be their last trip for a while.

See you in Qatar!
Food: Looking for something a little less sausage-y and a little more filling? How about some Ndolé Cameroon's official national dish--a stew of bitter green leaves, nuts and your choice of sauteed meat (beef? fish? prawns?)

Fool: This fall will see the 32nd anniversary of Paul Biya's ascension to the Presidency. Of course...he's still there...and he's increasingly authoritarian...and homophobic...and disinterested in other political opinions. But hey! A small price to pay for consistency.

Best Case: Eto'o sets up the next generation of talents, by leading by example and distributing, maybe even stopping a shot or two en route to their second quarter-final berth.

Worst Case: Eto'o breaks down in warm up matches, the whole squad is terribly overrun and they finish dead last with zero goals.

My prediction: This may come as stunner after all the disparaging, agist, cynical comments here, but I'm picking Cameroon as one of my two surprising second rounders. Of course, that's less because of them and more because of their opponents: I think a disheveled Mexico is beatable in the first match, as is a dispirited Croatia (likely to be Brazil's first whipping boy). Results in those two matches can make the final game against Brazil a moot point, giving Samuel Eto'o a grand send-off from the world stage with a second round berth (even if ends with a brutal whupping from Spain). (2nd in Group--4 points)

Added Bonus: We offer another female voice in our World Cup of Hip-Hop competition--"Viens" by Bams

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