WORLD CUP FORECAST: Group A - Can Cameroon recapture their essence?
by Andrew Slevison and Will Taylor
Cameroon has now qualified for the FIFA World Cup on seven occasions making it the most frequently represented African nation on the world stage.
The problem is, however, that the Indomitable Lions have made it past the group stage just once in what has been a constant let-down for the passionate people of 'Africa in miniature'.
The vibrancy of past players such as Roger Milla, Patrick Mboma, Rigobert Song, Geremi and the late Marc-Vivien Foe appears to have subsided in recent times suggesting that manager Volker Finke needs to inject some colour and verve back into the setup.
It was a fairly comfortable road to Brazil 2014 for Cameroon, ranked 50th in the world, as they successfully navigated their five-team CAF qualifying group in the second phase with four wins from their six fixtures.
That preceded a third round playoff with Tunisia which threw up a 0-0 draw in Rades before the Lions completed the job by defeating the north African nation 4-1 in Yaounde.
Now it is up to those selected by Finke for the final 23-man squad to kick on from that qualifying campaign and restore some pride in Central Africa.
Manager: Volker Finke
Fixtures: Mexico - June 13 (Natal), Croatia - June 18 (Manaus), Brazil - June 23 (Brasilia)
Past outings against group opponents: Cameroon's opening fixture against Mexico will be the second meeting between the two following their 1-0 loss in a friendly back in 1993.
The Indomitable Lions have never met Croatia at senior international level before.
When they meet Brazil on June 23 it will be the second World Cup tie between the two and the fifth in total. Having failed to score in the first three encounters, Cameroon eventually netted against this year's hosts, claiming a narrow 1-0 victory in the 2002/03 Confederations Cup. Brazil comfortably won 3-0 in their only other WC meeting in the USA in 1994, with the Samba Kings going on to clinch the trophy.
World Cup utopia: Qualify for knock-out stages.
Doomsday scenario: Finishing without a point.
Qualified by virtue of: CAF play-off win vs Tunisia (4-1 aggregate)
Best result at a World Cup: Quarter-finalists (1990)
Cameroon have performed consistently well in Africa for some years now but have always fallen short on the world stage, apart from their quarter-final finish at Italia '90.
You just can't help but feel that they are the weak link in Group A this time around and we expect them to have plenty of difficulty navigating their way through.
Eto'o has been their world class feature for some years now but we are starting to see his customary zip and opportunistic finishing evaporate. Having said that, however, he brings with him a wealth of experience and the capability of scoring in big games when it counts.
QPR's Sevilla loanee Mbia has stepped up for the Spanish club in the Europa League recently and Finke will be hoping he can deliver in Brazil just as he has done for the Sevillistas in the semi-finals of Europe's second tier club competition.
There are plenty of other experienced players likely to be present next month such as Jean Makoun, Alex Song and goalkeeper Carlos Kameni but the World Cup could be the perfect stage for the likes of Nicolas N'Koulou, Joel Matip, Vincent Aboubakar and Maxim Choupo-Moting to really shine.
With these players in tow, Cameroon are capable of big performances but it is unlikely that they will pull off the enormous task of getting past Brazil, Mexico and Croatia.
Favourable results in their opening two fixtures against the Mexicans and the Croatians are a necessity if they want to feature in the knockout phase but in our humble opinion, the Indomitable Lions will fall short in Brazil this South American summer.
Prediction: Group stage elimination
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