Cameroon coach Volker Finke unveiled his preliminary 28-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ starting on 12 June.
Cameroon are competing in their seventh World Cup finals, but are underdogs in a Group A that includes hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico.
Only two of Finke's squad play in their domestic championship - goalkeeper Loic Feudjou and defender Cedric Djeugoue - with the remainder in European and Turkish clubs.
Finke will have to reduce the squad to 23 for the finals themselves.
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor/TUR), Ndy Assembe (Guingamp/FRA), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor/TUR), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)
Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada/ESP), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas/TUR), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray/TUR), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille/FRA), Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes/FRA), Henri Bedimo (Lyon/FRA), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR/ENG), Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos/GRE)
Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor/TUR), Jean II Makoun (Rennes/FRA), Joel Matip (Schalke 04/GER), Stephane Mbia (Sevilla/ESP), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux/FRA), Alexandre Song (Barcelona/ESP), Cedric Loe (Osasuna/ESP), Edgar Sally (Lens/FRA)
Forwards: Samuel Eto'o (Chelsea/ENG), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz/GER), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy/FRA), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient/FRA), Achille Webo (Fenerbahce/TUR), Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern/GER), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem/BEL)
* Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.
Finke: Brazil 2014 is no holiday
Brazil may be known for its beaches and party atmosphere but Cameroon's players should not expect a laid-back vacation when they travel to the FIFA World Cup™ in two weeks' time, coach Volker Finke warned Monday. "It's a difficult group but we won't be there on holiday!" Finke joked as his squad prepared to play Macedonia in a pre-World Cup friendly in Kufstein, Austria.
Cameroon, whose best performance in the finals was reaching the last eight in 1990, faces hosts and favourites Brazil as well as Croatia and Mexico in Group A of the tournament which kicks off on 12 June. Before that, the team has been training in the peace and quiet - and fresh mountain air - of Walchsee in Austria's Tyrol region.
"This was the right choice because all the facilities are good...We can work as we wish," Finke told AFP. His goal for the tournament was crystal clear: "We really want to make it to the second round, that's for sure."
Olympiakos defender Gaetan Bong agreed: "We're working hard to be ready for this World Cup. Of course the goal is to qualify (for the last 16) but for that we have to be ready and make sure we don't get injured."
"You have to take it one match at a time...we're already thinking a little bit about the World Cup games but we'll take each match as it comes," said the 26-year-old. The group will be "very difficult," Bong said. "but it will be interesting. We have to prepare well so when we get there, we're tough and ready."
Paraguay clip Cameroon
Cameroon's preparations for next month's FIFA World Cup™ took a knock when the Africans fell 2-1 to Paraguay in a pre-tournament friendly in Kufstein on Thursday. Volker Finke's men had secured a 2-0 win over Macedonia in Austria earlier this week as they build towards the World Cup, which they begin against Mexico on 13 June.
But they were trailing early on Thursday after forward Oscar Romero put the South Americans ahead after just four minutes with Malaga striker Roque Santa Cruz netting a second after 68 minutes. Mainz striker Maxim Choupo-Moting, who also scored against Macedonia, pulled one back 15 minutes from time for Cameroon.
The Africans are in a tough World Cup Group Group A with hosts and favourites Brazil, Croatia and Mexico as they bid to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 1990. But with their provisional 28-man squad to be cut to 23 by June 2 they showed problems in defence with Nicolas N'Koulou and Joel Matip in a central role, supported by Allan Nyom and Gaetan Bong on either side failing to provide the necessary guarantees.
Samuel Eto'o, who remained on the bench Thursday as planned, is expected play at least 20 minutes against Germany on Sunday. Paraguay have not qualified for the World Cup with their focus on the 2015 Copa America.
Idrissou misses out for Cameroon
Veteran striker Mohammadou Idrissou has been left out of Cameroon's final 23-man squad for the World Cup by coach Volker Finke. Maccadbi Haifi forward Idrissou, 34, was one of five cuts as Finke whittled down his group to make the trip to Brazil.
Also missing out were Olympiakos defender Gaeteng Bong, Rennes defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, Guingamp goalkeeper Ndy Assembe and Osasuna midfielder Cedric Loe.
Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)
Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille), Henri Bedimo (Lyon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Joel Matip (Schalke), Stephane Mbia (QPR), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux), Alex Song (Barcelona), Edgar Salli (Lens)
Forwards: Samuel Eto'o (unattached), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient), Pierre Webo (Fenerbahce), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem).
* Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.
Mbia: We learned from our 2010 mistakes
When Stephane Mbia arrives in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, it will be the fourth time that he has appeared on a global stage, so the 28-year-old will be one of the veteran players in Volker Finke's team.
He represented his country at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Finland, where he scored the equalising goal four minutes into injury time in arguably the most spectacular game ever played in the competition as the west Africans came from 5-0 down in the 70th minute against Portugal to draw 5-5. Five years later, Mbia travelled to China where he played in the Cameroon U-23 side that competed at the Olympic games, losing after extra time against Brazil in the quarter-finals. He was then a member of Indomitable Lions that competed at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
Mbia has mixed feelings when he thinks back to the first World Cup finals hosted in Africa. “We did not leave a good impression in South Africa when we lost all three matches. There was not a good atmosphere in the team at that time. But it is different this time around. There is a good atmosphere. More than half of the players invited to the World Cup training camp in Austria in May already played in South Africa. We've all grown older, more mature and experienced.”
There has been some press coverage of problems within the Indomitable Lions camp, including about the question of bonuses, and Mbia admits that there were some issues. “It is true that there have been problems, but I think they can happen anywhere. The bonus issue was a shame, especially as it reoccurred. That issue should have been sorted before the training camp. Dealing with it later wastes time and energy and it is not ideal to prepare calmly.” He nonetheless says that he was confident the team would arrive in Brazil with all issues having been finalized. “As I said, the atmosphere is very good and calm and is different from what it was four years ago in South Africa.”
Finke making the difference
Mbia believes the explanation why the team atmosphere is so much better this time around is two-fold. “We learned from our mistakes. That is one reason, but the other reason is our new coach, Volker Finke. We have had several coaches since 2010 (Javier Clemente, Denis Lavagne, Jean-Paul Akono ) and all of them had their merits.
“Mr Finke puts a lot of emphasis during his talks to the players on the concept of respect. We should have respect for team-mates and their work. We all respect the selection process. We are all very disciplined and follow instructions. We work really hard.”
Mbia, who played his club football for La Liga team Sevilla, with whom he won the UEFA Europa League this past season, says that Finke has earned the respect of the players. “He demands a lot from the players, but he also protects them. Tactically, he has taught us a lot. He is a coach who wants his team to have ball skills, to create chances.”
Disappointingly, Cameroon had a problem scoring in Brazil 2014 qualifying, and Mbia says it is something that the players are aware of. “It is true that we did not score often, except in the return match against Tunisia [when Cameroon won the home leg of the third round qualifier 4-1 to advance to the finals], We can still improve in that area, and we have the players to get there. I think it will get better as we work tactically. But in a competition like the World Cup, you have to be efficient. It is unlikely that you will get that many chances, so you have to try to take those that you get.”
Cameroon will be making a record-breaking seventh appearance at the finals – more than any other African country, but only once have they escaped the group phase. That was in 1990 when a Roger Milla-led team became the first African country to qualify for the quarter-finals. They have been drawn in Group A against the hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico, and Mbia believes the first game against Mexico on 13 June in Natal will the most important one.
“It is our ambition to go through to the knock-out stage. It is important not to lose the first game, because it can determine a lot of things. Mexico is a very good team, their style reminds me of that of Spain. Technically, they are very strong. Then we face Croatia, who have [Ivan] Rakitic and [Luka] Modric. They are one of three teams that will fight for second place in the group. Brazil are favourites and it does not bother me when they say they will finish in first place. Brazil is always a favorite, especially if they play at home.”
Eto'o misses training with knee problem
Samuel Eto'o has missed two days of training with an injured knee and is battling to be fit for Cameroon's FIFA World Cup™ Group A game against Croatia, coach Volker Finke said today. "He has a problem with the right knee that he already had at the end of the season with his club Chelsea," Finke told a press conference.
"He did not train yesterday nor today," the coach added. Cameroon play Croatia on Wednesday in Manaus needing a victory to maintain their hopes of qualifying for the Round of 16. They play their last group game against Brazil on 23 June.
Eto'o: I need a miracle
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o admitted on Monday that he needs a miracle if he is to shake off a right knee injury in time to play in Wednesday's World Cup Group A match against Croatia. The 33-year-old striker played in Cameroon's 1-0 Group A defeat to Mexico on Friday, but he was not present at training at Vitoria, near Belo Horizonte, on Sunday. "I am hoping the gods grant me a miracle and that I am able to defend my dear, beautiful country," Eto'o told Cameroon Radio-Television (CRTV). "If this is not the case, I will always play my role as captain and especially as the big brother to push my young teammates to victory.
"For three-and-a-half months, I have not had the time to recover. You could see that even in the build-up to the World Cup I hadn't had a lot of practice until the friendly against Germany."He added: "During the first match of the World Cup against Mexico, I tried but after consulting the medical staff we realised that I needed a rest. Even in the ninth minute, I felt pain." Eto'o suffered a right knee injury at the end of his club season with Chelsea. "He didn't train on Saturday or Sunday," said Cameroon coach Volker Finke. After facing Croatia - beaten 3-1 by Brazil in their Group A opener - Cameroon will face the hosts on 23 June.
Finke: Red card no reason to 'lose it'
Cameroon coach Volker Finke has said that the 'unacceptable' behaviour of some of his players was the reason his side conceded four goals against Croatia, sending them out of the FIFA World Cup™ after just two matches. Wednesday's Group A result in Manaus knocked the team known as the 'Indomitable Lions' out of the competition, with Barcelona midfielder Alexandre Song sent off five minutes before the break for an elbow on Mario Mandzukic while his team trailed 1-0, and Croatia punished Cameroon with three goals after the interval.
To make matters worse, late in the game, a fight broke out between Cameroon team-mates Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo. "Some players behaved very badly, and that's why we have conceded four goals," Finke said to L'Equipe. "I know that it is difficult to play with ten men, but that is not a reason to lose it to this point. "The game was balanced until the red card. The Croatians were more clinical in front of goal, but Cameroon also had chances to score. The behaviour of some of the players is really not satisfactory. Even when we were 11-a-side, it was not acceptable."
The chemistry simply was never there for the African side. The players had threatened to boycott the World Cup due to a dispute with their federation over bonus payments. "After such a result, we have to admit that it is a disgrace," the German tactician said. "We must look to the future." Cameroon, who lost their first game 1-0 to Mexico, end their tournament against hosts Brazil on Monday in Brasilia. Croatia, 3-1 losers against Brazil in the first game of the tournament, welcomed back striker Mario Mandzukic from suspension. The Bayern Munich player had missed their Group A opener after being sent off in Croatia's final qualifying match, but returned with two goals. Croatia take on Mexico on Monday needing a win to progress.
"We know what awaits us from the Mexican match," coach Niko Kovac said to Croatian TV channel HTV. "This is a final for us. They are a very good, even excellent team, very aggressive, full of energy ...they were capable of threatening Brazil (before drawing 0-0)." Croatia are looking to reach the FIFA World Cup knock-out phase for the first time since 1998 and are on a high after the win over Cameroon. "We have trained hard and done what the coach wanted us to do," Mandzukic said to HTV. "He wanted an early goal and at half-time he told us to finish the game as soon as possible."
Ivan Perisic obliged with a solo goal three minutes after the restart to add to Ivica Olic's 11th-minute opener. Mandzukic could have had a hat-trick but he was off target in a one-on-one with Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje before his two successful strikes. "It was a long run, I was tired and lost focus," he said. "But never mind, I never play to score but to help my team. My goals come as a reward. We have shown we have power, now we go into battle with Mexico."