The Indomitable lions of Cameroon put up a five star performance last Friday to get their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign to a perfect start.
One first half goal from Bryan Mbeumo and two in the second stanza from George Kevin Nkoudou and Franck Magri sealed maximum points for Rigobert Song and his charges.
For many pundits of the game, it was mature and composed performance that offered a glimpse of what lies in store if this young Indomitable lions squad continues to progress.
In a game billed as a match of wits between Rigo and Fidi Rosoan Naivo of Mauritius, it was the most heralded who emerged victorious. Three-quarter of the players played with a clear understanding of what was required from them by the head coach, be it flashy or more physical commitment in nature, and indeed they executed the coach’s instructions to near perfection.
The Cameroonians saw more if the ball with swift inter-positional play, something that was lacking in their previous matches. And so, there were no doubts about the lions’ status as winners, even though the Dodos of Mauritius almost caused a scare in the 48 minutes with a swift counter offensive. Despite absorbing the pressure, the Indomitable lions were forced to finish the game without star goalkeeper Andre Onana who got substituted as a result of a goal mouth tussle.
The Cameroonian coach must be credited for his foresight and technical acumen as all two strikers he brought in, further steadied the stacking ship with two top class goals.
It would have been easy for coach Rigobert Song to have given into the temptation of picking Nouhou Tolo on the left back with Frank Magri as a conventional forward, and it is to his credit that he resisted the temptation. Also, Christopher Wooh and Jean Charles Castelleto have shown that they get the best out of each other and this game was no different. The two were very alert defensively and did not place a foot wrong except for one duel with Wilson Mootoo. Wooh for example played a big role in the sequence leading to Bryan Mbeumo’s goal.
Defensively, the Indomitable lions did a great job of squeezing Mauritius’ players wide before seeking to win the ball back. To that effect, a new master of the defense was discovered in Oumar Gonzalez; his composure, anticipation and authority was felt, just like Darlin Yongwa who also had a brilliant performance.
While perhaps all the focus in attack was on Permi Moubagna, there is a legitimate argument to suggest that Bryan Mbeumo has been the best player in the squad over sometime now.
He is one of the leaders of the team, his volume of work perhaps second to none, and his capacity to take the game right into the opponent’s backyard was simply a marvel to watch.
Zambo Anguissa was phenomenal in midfield as he led by example throughout the contest. Yvan Neyou simply made life unbearable for the Dodos in midfield as he integrated effortlessly into the 3-4-3 tactical system employed by the coach.
While lions form was simply immaterial going to last Friday’s game, Rigo and his contingent rebounded strongly to take the game by the scruff of its neck. Overall, the general satisfaction was to have scored three goals and taking all three points.
But while this game could hide the dark cloud behind the silver lining, there is still visibly so much work to do if the team must outlive its challenges. Against the Mauritius, the Indomitable lions were by every standard in front of a modest opponent who had come to pack the bus with the intention to squeeze out a point.
From the way the played, any keen football observer could see that the Dodos did not really have a clearly defined play style as well as they lacked confidence.
They had to Douala one hundred and twenty seven days after their last competitive game and indeed, they were in front of a Cameroon team that needed to regain the confidence of its home crowd. Against a serious and more potent opponent, the Indomitable lions would to up their game and work profusely on the following aspects: One; their finishing ability left very little to be desired. For now, finishing seems to be one of the biggest issues the technical staff must quickly address before the team’s second game in these qualifiers next Tuesday in Benghazi against Libya.
This is so because there were several clearcut scoring chances that were unfortunately auctioned by Bryan Mbeumo and Karl Toko Ekambi. Two; crossing from the two wings still remains a major concern since the departure of Faï Collins. Junior Tchamadeu failed to execute that ultimate assignment for a greater part of the game, while the only positive in that aspect was the 87 minute cross from Darlin Yongwa that saw Franck Magri score with the head.
Three; there is serious work to be done with set pieces. The Lions had 5 free kicks from the edge of the 18 yard area, but these set pieces were all badly taken. The observation could be that this aspect of the game wasn’t well rehearsed. Even the corner kicks weren’t good enough, and this could be a very big problem in front of a serious opponent.
Four; the midfield was good but not very good enough as they kept bubbling the ball around the same spot for way too long. This was very adverse to the performance of the centre forward, Faris Permi Moubagna.
And so while coach Rigobert Song and his staff get busy in Libya, credit should also be given to the Douala public that came out en masse to push these boys to victory. I bet you, it was an adrenaline packed Japoma stadium; the ear piercing vuvuzela sounds as well as the muffled ambiance of the cheers, the jeers and music depicted the love the people have for their national.
Unfortunately, this adrenaline rush and heightened motivation was negated and overshadowed by emotional supporters who invaded the pitch at the blast of the final whistle. And this means CAF and FIFA will weigh with an automatic fine.
By Katche Rene
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