Sports Writer Mysoccer24.com-Cameroon
In a match that the Intermediate Lions will not be able to forget no matter how hard they try, Guinea embarrassed the CHAN 2020 hosts with a 2-0 victory in 3rd Place
The clues were there in the opening game even though the Lions grabbed three points from Zimbabwe and there was further evidence of Cameroon’s flaws in their unconvincing last two games that ended with a draw against Mali and Burkina Faso. But being beaten by Morocco in the semi-final 4-0 was a pitiful defense of their hosting right
Cameroon entered the CHAN Tournament as one of the groups’ favorites, however, their preparations weren’t great. On the 1st of January, the intermediate Lions proved not ready as they drew against Uganda 1-1 in CHAN Pre-tournament. But things even got worst as they lost their last two games and that left many questions about team Cameroon. The Intermediate Lions entered the tournament with a 19% chance to win, and many economists, financial advisors, and pundits believing that Cameroon would go all the way again, however, things didn’t go to plan for the Lions.
Instead, they hang their heads in shame, with the players become national disgraces, and the future of Cameroon football hanging in the balance. Cameroon teams in CAF inter-club competitions this year also didn’t do well. PWD Bamenda failed to make it to the group stage, crashed out of the CAF Champions League but Coton Sport of Garoua is still in the CAF confederation cup
So, What Went Wrong?
The lack of balance in the side was stark as Cameroon were continually caught on the counter throughout the tournament. When going forward, they generally lacked both the speed and the precision to break down their opponents.
Individual selections can be questioned, none more so than that of Jacque Zoua. It had made sense that he was dropped for Yannick Njeng against DR Congo, has not been quick enough in body or mind against Zimbabwe.
You might say that Cameroon should have taken in-form Bamboutous trio. Winger Pange Lobe, Rene Ndi the creative midfielder, Mbape Muller a fantastic goal score who were surprise omission from the 33-man squad.
Martin Ntoungo Pile omission of Mark Ojong, Samuel Nlend, Etah Bawark, and a host of fine players who made the name in the 2020 football season in the Cameroon league one and two became a call for concerned for many Cameroonians. Lack of creativity in the midfield and only one goal scored by the Lions attack has proven that coach Martin Ntoungo MPile 33 man squad was a joke
This is not to say Cameroon was lucky, more that the margins between success and failure can be incredibly fine. When a team wins a tournament, such moments of doubt get left behind. What stays in the memory instead is Cameroon 4-0 demolitions of Morocco in the semi-final.
Off-Pitch Politics And ‘Arrogance’
The lead-up to this tournament, on the other hand, might not have helped.
Few months before the start of the African Nations Championship CHAN the professional Elite 1 and 2 championships were still not resumed. However, these competitions are supposed to feed the national selection of local players.
This situation is notably the consequence of the conflict which continues between the Cameroonian Football Federation (Fecafoot) and the Professional Football League of Cameroon (LFPC).
Even though the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in its decision rendered on September 14, 2020, concerning the conflict between the two instances, annulled the suspension of the League and restored it to its rights, in particular those to the organization of the championships. Football professionals. A sentence still not applied by Fecafoot and despite various mediations from the Cameroonian government, in particular through the Ministry of Sports and even an intervention by FIFA, the two parties still did not agree on the modalities of organization of the competitions.
A status that tarnishes the image of Cameroonian football outside and penalizes the players. But that also annoys Cameroonians who are particularly worried about the competitiveness of Lions A ‘in this competition which indeed was proven in all Cameroon’s games in the tournament for lack of league game.
Martin Ndtoungo MPile is not a bad coach at all. He’s an experienced coach in this tournament and this is the first time under his tenure that Cameroon makes the semi-finals, a seriously impressive stat. However, the issue here is not his competence but his questionable decisions and unconditional loyalty of more recently. He left our better player and went in for outdated players from the 4th tier in the likes of Jacque Zoua, Yannick Njeng and forgot about Rene Ndi, Pange Lobe, and a host of others who could have helped his team in terms of positions and scoring goals which his awful selection lacked.
Throughout the intermediate’s Lions tumultuous CHAN campaign, there was something very un-Lion about the performances. Instead, of making a simple pass, it took 5 passes to achieve that same outcome, and instead of being clinical, they were extremely wasteful in front of the goal. Jacque Zoua and Yannick Njeng were playing in a system that didn’t allow them to run in between the channels, Thierry Tchente didn’t have the protection behind him to allow him to roam as forward as he would’ve liked to, and Bertrand Junior was extremely average on the right throughout Cameroon’s match against Guinea. Despite barely beating Zimbabwe and DR Congo, Cameroon had painted the front door while letting the back one rot. They got by via superior individual quality — a method that does not fare well over multiple games.
Going into their final game against Guinea for 3rd place, Cameroon needed at least a win to save their home honor and forget about their humiliating defeat against Morocco in Limbe.
Once again, something very un-Lions happened. For the second time straight, Ndtoungo MPile had made changes to his backline, hoping that certain players would perform, however, it’s very difficult for a defender to perform well when they have very little defensive protection.
They left themselves wide open to the counter-attack. Again. While continuously pushing for a goal, Guinea found plenty of gaps when going forward, and despite their wastefulness, they only scored 2 goals. The word “only” is an understatement, as Guinea had plenty of chances but just hesitated at the wrong moment. Banga and Etame did well to stem as much as they did; they were subjected to extreme pressure due to structural issues once again.
The talent is undoubtedly there and they can win when it matters, but it seems that a new manager is needed for Cameroon Intermediate Lions. Even though the Cameroon Football Federation gave Martin Ndtoungo MPile another chance at CHAN 2020, The intermediate Lions need a new coach that doesn’t have any specific loyalties with anyone and instills a mentality of “fight for your place.” The players need to know that they simply won’t be in the team because of reputation, but rather of hard work, merit, and their efforts for the team.
Even though Clement Arroga was sacked three months before the CHAN 2020 tournament due to a conflict of interest, the mentality that he instilled in the Lions made them unbeaten under his tenure as coach and has gotten the best out of several players including Rene Ndi and Pange Lobe.
Many pundits still believe Clement Arroga was and is the right person for the job.
The writing was on the wall for Cameroon, but it was just difficult to believe the words. Martin Ndtoungo MPile ignored the warning signs the DR Congo match produced and allowed them to spill into the Semi-finals. On the back foot from the off, he rang wild changes game by game to make up the ground. At no point was this remotely comfortable for the intermediate Lions. At no point were they in control? This truly was a very un-Lions experience for Cameroon and a Cameroon disaster making it the 4th time that they’ve failed to reach the Final since its existence of the tournament in 2011