The first part of Cameroon’s potential path through AFCON 2023 has been mapped out. Rigobert Song’s side will have to make their way past Senegal, Guinea and Gambia in Group C if they are to reach the knockout phase and then try to win a major international men’s tournament for the first time in seven years.
Attention will now turn to who travels on the plane to Côte d’Ivoire. Will Song stick by most of the players who have served him well over the course of his 22 months in the impossible job? Or will he twist and pick based purely on form?
We are all seasoned Song observers by now and so probably know the answer to that question already, although this tournament will be slightly different to those of the recent past.
At the 2022 World Cup, Song had been on the job for 8 months, was still getting to know his players better, was still trying to implement the best tactics to get the maximum out of his players, was the first Cameroonian local head coach to take the team to the World Cup, was still having a honeymoon period with the ever-demanding Cameroonian public and had the benefit of being able to pick an expanded 26-man squad. But this time around, he knows the players better, he knows the demands of the competition having won two of them as a player, he knows the best tactics to employ pre-game and in-game, and the reality of the monumental job has already being showing its effects when 26 million Cameroonian coaches question players called to camp, the starting eleven, the substitutions and even the score line.
For AFCON 2023, a 27-man limit has been agreed by CAF. Song has said this will require “a different sort of thought process” compared to the last tournament because most clubs hate the mid-season African competition and will inevitably mean more selection headaches due to absences.
Do you need two players for every position?
The conventional wisdom dictates that when picking a squad for a major tournament, you should try to cover all bases. This is often taken to mean a starter and a back-up for every position.
Versatility, therefore, is key. And as a general rule, an extra attacking player will serve you better than a second-choice left-back. Do you remember Jonathan Ngwem being part of Cameroon’s 2017 AFCON winning squad? Probably not, because he did not play a single minute. Or Enzo Ebosse being part of 2021 AFCON third place finish squad? He didn’t even get a game against Burkina Faso when head coach Conceicao made a turnover of his players.
Although there are obviously times to dig deep and soak up pressure, the nature of knockout football means that at some point or other, you are likely to need someone to come on and make an impact and so can be more adventurous than you would be when building a squad for a 38-game season.
Do you pick form, reputation, or tactical suitability?
Barely a Cameroon squad announcement passes by without some arguing against the exclusion of one in-form player or criticizing the inclusion of another who has done little to justify their place of late.
Yet form is temporary, class is permanent and reputations are far from permanent. It is better to select players based on how they suit the tactical set-up they will actually play in and build towards a style of play rather than simply select those who are performing at club level.
Although roundly and regularly criticized for standing by his so-called favourites, the Indomitable Lions manager has always picked players based on how they fit his system rather than plump for the flavour of the month. It has served him well enough so far.
Should you prioritize experience, or bleed in young players?
Rigobert Song will be selecting a squad to win seven games, give or take, over the space of a month. That arguably lends itself to short-term thinking and, while it is right that no international head coach should lose sight of the task at hand, is instant success always the be all and end all?
Giving valuable tournament experience to young players who could be the foundation for future success is important, so long as they are able to contribute if called upon.
Where do local players fit in?
In AFCON 2015 and 2017, Cameroon had only 2 local players in their 23-man squad. None in the 2019 and 2021 editions although in 2021, Jean Efala Komguep and Simon Omossola plied their trade in Nigeria and DR Congo respectively.
In the recent FIFA window, with the recurrent wave of squad injuries, we saw Song resort to local talent to make up the numbers.
Elume Raymond, Sports Analyst, recommends that a 27-man squad gives head coach Rigobert Song the opportunity to call up at most three local talents in order to showcase what our championship has to offer.
The Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT) must submit a provisional squad containing 55 players to the Confederation of African Football within days, with December 14 set as the deadline. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has informed the twenty-four teams participating in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) that the squad lists for the tournament held in Ivory Coast must be submitted by January 3, 2024, at the latest.
All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written, or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from our management.
This site is not responsible for the content displayed by external sites