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Cameroon World Cup 2010 expectations low

Cameroon's national soccer team hopes to survive the first round of games against tough European teams.

A Cameroon fan before the World Cup Finals between Cameroon and Ireland in Japan on June 1, 2002. (Ruben Sprich/Reuters)

Cameroon World Cup Team Statistics: Group E

Status: Knocked out round 2

World Ranking: 19

World Cup 2010 Results: 0-3-0

Total goals scored: 2

Total goals scored against: 5

Cameroon World Cup Schedule: June 14 - Japan (0-1 loss); June 19 - Denmark (1-2 loss); June 24 - Holland (1-2 loss)

Cameroon World Cup Soccer 2010

The country’s autocratic president, Paul Biya, has ruled the country since 1982. And he has long taken pains to associate himself with the Indomitable Lions, aiming to piggyback his popularity on its successes.

In 1990, it was Biya who personally coaxed the 38-year old Roger Milla out of retirement for Cameroon’s World Cup debut. Cameroon stunned Argentina in the tournament opener and, with Milla scoring four goals, went all the way to the quarterfinals, still as far as any African team has progressed.

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Two years later, protests erupted over election irregularities and a national strike was called for October 11th. But Cameroon was scheduled to play Zimbabwe in a key game for World Cup ’94 qualification on October 10th and Biya promised a national holiday the following day if the Indomitable Lions prevailed. They did, folks celebrated and the strike fizzled. Today neither Biya, at 77, nor the Indomitable Lions, spur the same lofty expectations.

Cameroon World Cup History: Cameroon has qualified for more World Cups — five — and gone further in the tournament — quarterfinals in 1990 — than any other African nation.

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Cameroon World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Now that World Cup qualification is old hat at home, a strong dose of reality has set in. Nobody expects the heroics of 1990 and Cameroonians would be content to see their side survive the first round. With two strong European teams in their group, that will be a challenge.

Cameroon World Cup Team Coach: Paul Le Guen

Le Guen gets all the credit for a rescue mission. When he took over the team, it wasn’t remotely indomitable. Indeed it was at group bottom and threatened with missing out on the biggest African party yet. Le Guen steered the team to four consecutive wins and easy qualification.

World Cup Team Strength: Though just 26 years old, goalkeeper Carlos Kameni has experience beyond his years, having spent six seasons playing in Spain’s tough La Liga. He was the keeper on Cameroon’s 2000 Olympic gold-medal team and has been named African goalie of the year.

Cameroon World Cup Team Weakness: Cameroon coaches are always tempted to put the team’s grand old man, Rigobert Song, in the lineup. But the defender, who will turn 34 during the Cup competition, has lost more than a step and his talent is no longer worth the risk of his temperament. He is one of only two players — the great French star, Zinedine Zidane, is the other — to have been red-carded in two World Cups.

Cameroon World Cup Key Player: Samuel Eto’o

It would be a devastating blow if Eto'o, upset over some public criticism, makes good on this threat to sit out the World Cup. Eto'o is a proven scorer of the first class. He netted the winning goal for Barcelona in the Champions League final last year, his 108th in 145 games for the Spanish team. And this year he helped Inter Milan knock his old team out of the competition.

He earned his first cap for Cameroon when he was just 15 years old and two years later was the youngest player to take the field in the 1998 World Cup. Eto’o, now 29 and still in his prime, has scored 44 goals for the Indomitable Lions. And his teammates should be happy to help him score more, especially after he favored each with a $45,000 diamond-encrusted watch as a reward for qualification.

 

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